June 24, 2014

Myth: Government censored "Redskins"

Conservatives are flat-out lying, as they so often do, when they say the US government censored or banned the "Redskins" name. The truth is closer to the opposite: that the government has removed itself from the "Redskins" case altogether.

The myth of Big Government in the Redskins trademark case This is government inaction, not government action

This is government inaction, not government action

By Matt Bruenig
First, let's clearly describe the Patent Office's actions in this case. The Patent Office did not fine the Redskins. It did not arrest or jail anyone associated with the Redskins. It didn't even tell the team that the name must be changed.

Instead, the Patent Office declared its future intention to literally do nothing. It decided that, because there are racially derogatory slurs involved in this trademark claim, the government is going to sit on its hands and stay out of the matter altogether. In short, the Patent Office has abdicated its role in regulating use of this name, instead opting for a small-government, hands-off, libertarian stance on the question of who can use "Redskins."

Now, anyone may use the word however they'd like, including the Washington Redskins organization. The football team can still do whatever it wants with the word, as always. Nothing changes for them. It's just that now everyone else can do whatever they want with it as well. The team's liberty with respect to the word is unchanged. Everyone else's liberty with respect to the word is expanded.

The problem for the team, of course, is that it makes a lot of money off of the government restricting everyone else from using the word. When the government gives the Redskins organization a monopoly over the use of that word—which is what a trademark is—the team can leverage that monopoly to get other people to pay them money to use it. Vendors who want to use the word to sell shirts and hats know that the government will go after them unless they pay for the team's permission. Vendors are thus forced to strike a deal and pay the Redskins organization to keep the police at bay.

By revoking the trademark, the Patent Office has not intervened in the economy with the heavy hand of big government. Quite the contrary: It has withdrawn itself from the economy in this particular area. Previously, it helped the football team by giving them a monopoly on the word and promising to go after others who violated that monopoly. It won't any longer.
"Devil's advocate" is bedeviled

Here's a soft version of the argument that the trademark has no business playing favorites or deciding what's offensive:

Op-Ed: Devil's advocate — Keeping the Redskins name

By Mike RossiI don’t have a problem with private organizations (like the NCAI) and persons (like John Oliver) petitioning to have the name changed. If the cause carries that much importance in their eyes, they can go right ahead as far as I’m concerned. It’s their time and money.

That being said, I don’t approve of our elected officials in Washington—looking at you Harry Reid—getting involved. Sending letters to the NFL, petitioning the Trademark Office to institute changes and generally working to gather support on Capitol Hill to change the name of a private business—a football team at that—is not the responsibility of politicians.
And:Daniel Snyder owns the football team.

He has the right to name the team whatever he wants: Redskins, Whiteskins or Blackskins, it’s his call.

This is still America. The First Amendment and all of its associated blah, blah, blah, still carries weight in our society.

If that’s what he wants to call the team, so be it.

People may not like the name, but it’s not their business to control, so stop hounding the guy.
The same answers in Conservatives Boo Redskins Trademark Decision apply here. Natives have been battling the nickname for decades. The PTO first decided the case in 1999. Reid's "pressure" had no effect on the patent judges, who ruled against "Redskins" based on the evidence. For the second time.

But since this posting had a Facebook comments section, I helpfully replied:

So you'd be okay with the government's upholding trademarks for N*gger Cola, K*ke Savings and Loan, or C*nt Perfume? Then why not say so explicitly?

Your "Devil's advocacy" is more like a naughty child's advocacy. If you were serious about challenging people on this issue, you'd put it in the headline in bold letters:

I Support N*gger Cola and You Should Too

Let us know how Digital Journal and your readers would respond to that. Because that's what you're advocating, whether you realize it or not: an unlimited right to have racial and sexual hate speech protected by our legal system.

I'm guessing it wouldn't go so well for you. You'd probably be reprimanded or fired--I'm not sure which.

In fact, no critic of the "Redskins" trademark decision has followed his or her "thinking" to its logical conclusion. Here's your chance to be the first. Go ahead and list the racial and sexual slurs you'd support. Until you do, you're a hypocrite on the subject.

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