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Redskins name should stick, most say

Rochester Business Journal
July 18, 2014

More than three-quarters of RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll respondents oppose the federal decision to cancel trademark protection for the Washington Redskins. Slightly fewer respondents—71 percent—say franchise owner Daniel Snyder should not change the team’s name.

Last month, a federal agency issued a ruling to cancel six federal trademark registrations owned by the Washington Redskins.

In a case brought by five Native Americans, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office held 2-1 that the term “Redskins” was offensive to a “substantial composite” of Native Americans when the registrations were granted, between 1967 and 1990. The decision cites a 1993 resolution adopted by the National Congress of American Indians that denounced the Redskins name as “disparaging and racist.”

Under the Lanham Act of 1946, registration of trademarks that “may disparage (persons) or bring them into contempt or disrepute” is prohibited.

The team, which has used the Redskins name for some 80 years, argued that there was insufficient evidence to support the Native Americans’ claim. It keeps its federal trademark rights pending appeal. Loss of trademark protection would not prevent the team from using the Redskins name, but it likely would hurt licensing revenues.

This is not the first time the patent office issued a ruling canceling Redskins trademark registrations. It also did so in 1993; that decision later was overturned, in part on technical grounds.

In resisting pressure to change the team’s name, Washington franchise owner Daniel Snyder has cited a 2004 poll in which 90 percent of nearly 1,000 Native Americans who took part in the survey said the Redskins name was not offensive to them.

More than 750 readers participated in this week’s poll, conducted July 14 and 15.

Do you support the federal decision to cancel trademark protection for the Washington Redskins?
Yes: 24%
No: 76%

The trademark issue aside, do you think Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder should change the team’s name?
Yes 29%
No: 71%

COMMENTS:
Should we change the name Rochester Americans because it might offend illegal Hispanics or Muslims? There are about eight teams with possibly disparaging names right now.
—Daniel Mossien, architect

It’s time to get into the 21st century! The Redskins name is not appropriate.
—Rick Corey, Penfield

It is the right of the owner to name his franchise what he wants. With that said, would society ever condone a team name of “Black Skins,” “Yellow Skins,” etc.?
—Brian L. Handley

We seem to be in a new phase of doublespeak—with humanitarian crisis news from all parts of the world, tribal and religious sect wars raging, our country worries about the trivial, especially if it is related to money. The Redskins’ trademark is worth millions. Let the owner(s) negotiate a deal with the people offended and get this silliness out of the news. Personally, I think the use of “Senators” is more offensive, given the current embarrassing circus in Washington.
—Wayne Donner, Rush

If the Native American community finds the word “Redskins” offensive, then out of respect the use of it should be terminated. Is it so different from the use of the “n word”? However, should common decency and respect for our fellow human beings be legislated? I’m not so sure in a “free” society, such as ours. Could we not rely on the theory of natural consequence? Perhaps the public could come to believe that using the Redskins name, in spite of its 80-year tradition, is hurtful and thus lend less support to the team. This might force a name change to one that fans could get behind in good conscience.
—Linda Hutchinson

Daniel Snyder should never change the Redskins name. Private property rights are a benchmark of the Constitution.
—Todd Black, Black’s Hardware

If the Trademark Office is now going to take away something they approved a long time ago, having let team owners build up equity through their marketing investments over many years, the action amounts to a seizure. The team owners should be compensated for the net present value of the loss in franchise equity. I hope the owners will sue and create a precedent ruling against abuse of other private enterprise. However, if team names are going to be seized based on public sensitivities, let’s start with grossly objectionable names such as “devils,” removing it from school team names. It is a title offensive to many people of faith. Further, is anyone proposing the Coca-Cola Co. drop the word “Coke” due to insensitivity to recovering cocaine addicts? I think not.
—Diane Harris, president, Hypotenuse Enterprises Inc.

Back when I attended Stanford University, our team was called the “Indians.” A member of one of the California tribes, who was working nearby as an insurance executive, spent an awful lot of time volunteering as Prince Lightfoot, the team mascot. He proudly performed dances and rituals that represented his cultural heritage while (hopefully) encouraging better athletic performance. There came a time when Native American members of the student body prevailed upon the university trustees to change the designation from Indians, for the same reasons some want the name Redskins to be done away with. Given that the tradition I grew up with was hurtful to a segment of the population, I have come to accept rooting for the Cardinal (a color and a really dumb name) instead of the Indians. But I am reminded that my Irish ancestors were discriminated against (“no Irish need apply”) during the mid- to late 19th century, and often they had to fight to survive when they ventured out of their neighborhoods. Yesterday, the Indians; today, the Redskins; and tomorrow, the Fighting Irish?
—Steve Hooper,
Health Economics Group Inc.

On the issue of the first question, do I support the patent office’s canceling of the trademark—absolutely not! The patent office’s charter is to review applications for merit and judge them solely on their technical (merit) and originality. No way should they be involved in social matters. The second question was more difficult: Should the owner change the team’s name? If it was my team with the name as invaluable as this, I would not and (would) fight as hard as Snyder is. However, if I were a Native American, might I be upset? Not sure. Ninety percent of Native Americans were not in 2004. What has changed since then, I’d like to know?
—John Malvaso, FSI Systems

I do not think government should attempt to regulate the social conscience of a business. The citizenry, through their individual and collective action, can exercise their rights to support the business or not support it because of what it says or how it acts. Government should address the burdensome rules it places on businesses that impede our economy rather than getting involved in whether or not the name of a business is offensive to someone.
—Robert Zinnecker, Penfield

After how many years the Redskin name is suddenly offensive? How about the Buffalo Bills? Is this offensive to the animal right advocates? Give me a break!
—J. Camar

I grew up with all the movies having the white soldiers defeating the Indians. The first movie I saw where the Indians defeated the white man was “Little Big Man.” I didn’t want to be like Dustin Hoffman. I wanted to be like Eagle Eyes Cody. Native Americans were the only group of humans who lived in harmony with and not despoiling the earth. The Native Americans were great warriors and had great chiefs. The Seneca was a great nation. But the Redskins have had their name for 80 years and no one has spoken up against their name until recently. Those who want to boycott should do so, and those who want to support should do so too. That’s coming from a Giants fan who hates the Redskins, and the Cowboys for that matter.
—Clifford Jacobson M.D.

Political correctness should be shelved. Slights, verbal insults are a fact of life. If you can’t take it—don’t give it!
—John L. Sackett Jr.

Just another government intervention on private business. The government has no standing meddling in the affairs of private business; typical for this administration. As for the name “Redskins,” common sense says change the name to perhaps the “Warriors” and not change the logo. It doesn’t bother me either way.
—Dan Zarpentine

If the Trademark Office ruling is allowed to stand, where will this all end? What’s the next team name to be considered offensive? What books will be deemed offensive? Arguably there are many books and record titles that are all offensive to some. In fact, I’m sure the descriptive “Republican” is very offensive to the leftist, liberal Democrats out there who want to transform America. How long have the Redskins been the Redskins? I think they were established in the late 1920s or early 1930s. The legislation granting the Trademark Office (Lanham Act) wasn’t passed until 1946. Isn’t the Trademark Office going backward and finding a previously used name (Redskins) offensive an example of “ex post facto”? Maybe this is how the current administration plans on banning the Republican Party (GOP)—by claiming they are offensive and banning the use of the GOP’s elephant! Let’s get real about all of this. I’m sure the Trademark Office has more important items to worry about. If not, it’s just another example of government gone wild. And where in the Constitution does it say anyone has the right not to be offended?
—Keith Robinson, Diamond Packaging

Why is this all of a sudden offensive? Was it offensive last year, or the year before? No? So why is it offensive now? Because people are changing, and becoming way too soft! Political correctness is going too far.
—Natalie Summers

In an age where everyone is endowed by their opinion to be incalculably wronged by the latest PC revisionism, there comes a time to stand up against such nonsense. This seems as good a time as any. The Native American symbol and the on-field celebratory demonstrations that the Washington Redskin team embraces seem, to the reasonable and apolitical person, respectful and in concert with Native American heritage. So say many Native Americans. But far be it possible to have a civil debate with those agenda-seeking non-Native Americans whose cause du jour compels them to demonize and distort the views of those same reasonable and apolitical people. PC-ism appears to be here to stay and until we, the People, reject it and its tenets, we will continue to fall victim to it. Damn, I think this will get my phones and emails tapped, for sure …
—Tom Pasko

I suspect in a “real” poll, a large majority of Native Americans would favor the current name and be proud of it as would the general population. Instead we are harassed by these five loonies who only want the attention for themselves.
—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield

Enough of this “political correctness” already. If 90 percent of the Native Americans are not offended, what is the big deal?
—J.A. DePaolis, Penfield

An overwhelming number of Native Americans do not find the name offensive. That’s a fact. Let the majority rule!
—Rich Mileo

Clearly the name is offensive to a majority of Native Americans. It should be changed.
—Emily Neece

Removing trademark protection is another strong-arm tactic of the current administration. Nothing has changed since the last review that would warrant a different ruling other than the political climate. I really do not feel that Redskins is derogatory. I’m Italian and have been called olive-skinned and many other names. They were merely descriptive.
—Carlo Jannotti, Forward Branding

Given the low approval numbers of Congress and President Obama, the Washington Redskins should drop the word “Washington” from their name because it is embarrassing.
—Peter Gregory, Rochester

The world is on fire. Our country is broke. The middle class is being destroyed. And we may never be able to prevent a world crisis again. Can we please start worrying about something important?
—T. Baker, West Henrietta

If it offends, then change must come. As a non-Native American, I’m nevertheless confused why a culture would challenge a nickname that conjures strength, power and heritage. As one local high-schooler once noted when voting against renaming his school’s “Indians” name: “You mean all this time we’ve (been) rooting for a society whose grit and determination to survive we don’t respect?”
—Bruno Sniders, Webster

I firmly believe the vast majority of Native Americans understand that “Redskins” was selected for, and still stands as, a symbol honoring their collective courage, bravery and strength. Those who object may be loud but are an insignificant minority.
—Tom Shea, Thomas P. Shea Agency Inc.

So when (MSNBC host Ed Schultz) called (conservative radio host) Laura Ingraham a “slut,” that wasn’t offensive? Oh yeah, no trademark issue there. If the thought police have their way, we’ll have no idea how to tell the idiots like Snyder from the idiots like Ed.
—Bill Lanigan


For more comments, go to rbjdaily.com.  To participate in the weekly RBJ Snap Poll, sign up for the Daily Report at rbj.net/dailyreport.asp.

7/18/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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