WASHINGTON, June 22, 2014 — The fervor over changing the name of Dan Snyder’s football team, The Washington Redskins, seems to be hitting new all time highs with each passing day.
What is a “redskin?” One early meaning: the bloody scalp of a Native American whose skin has been ripped off his head.
If that is not offensive, well, forget the rest of the conversation.
It is impossible to forget however.
From every quarter outside the Native American community, objections to the name mount: the NFL commissioner; football team owners; former Redskin players; lawmakers; celebrities; civil rights groups; media groups; religious organizations and many more.
“The writing is on the wall … in giant, blinking neon lights,” Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor shortly after this week’s Patent Office decision revoking Redskin trademarks.
For the second time, the United States Patent and Trademark Office revoked the team’s federal trademark registrations. This time the vote by the judges was 2-1′ they found the term “Redskins” was disparaging when the marks were granted between 1967 and 1990.
The decision to cancel these registrations, which are not technically canceled yet as the team has two months to appeal, does not require Snyder to change the name, but means that if the decision stands, others can use the name and images to sell things like jerseys, T-shirts, sweatshirts and license plate holders.
It might be that there will more, not less, use of the Redskins name.
This is the second time the Patent Office revoked the Redskins’ trademarks. The first revocation in the 1990’s was overturned on appeal in 2003; thus the team’s registrations were affirmed. The team has indicated an appeal is coming, and they may win again.
So what is different now? Snyder may very well win the appeal, but public relations will cement him in history as the guy who is responsible for the name. If he goes through with the appeal, he will no longer be able to claim he inherited the name when he took ownership.
Snyder should end this controversy, accept the ruling and change the name. He remains a racist (perhaps laughing all the way to the bank) on this issue until he reverses his “I will never change the name” comment.
He says about the team’s name that he was a Redskins fan from the time he was a kid, and that he couldn’t bring himself to change it.
Time to grow up Dan. Money is clearly the concern. Snyder though has paid much more for other “mistakes,” such as Albert Haynesworth — $35.6 million. Note the cost to him would pale in comparison to the Redskins team value in 2013: $1.6 billion.
This week, Allen Adamson, managing director of Landor Associates (which formerly represented the NFL), said that “the biggest cost is not developing a new name and mark. The biggest cost by far is applying it to all the points of touch that a brand like the Redskins exists on: merchandise, signage, training facilities and the stadium.
That would be several million dollars, probably under $5 million. They can do it aggressively in six months, sometimes even less. Sometimes it can take a couple years to do the transition. Even double that amount would be a drop in the bucket for a team Forbes considers the eighth most valuable franchise in all of sports and third most valuable football franchise.”
Patrick Hruby, writing for Sportsonearth.com over a year ago, commented on the potential cost of a name change:
“The exact price of a nickname change is hard to estimate — in part because unaffiliated sports branding and marketing experts don’t have access to the proprietary team financial data needed to calculate a number. That said, it’s possible to make a reasonable, educated guess.
In 2010, Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan estimated that it would cost him between $3 million and $10 million to change the team’s little-loved nickname. (NBA insiders say Jordan’s estimate is accurate). A source with knowledge of financial operations in professional football estimates that the cost for a “significant NFL team” might be as high as “$10 million to $20 million.”
Where does the money go? Naming consultants. Lawyers. Having to revamp every single thing — from stadium signs to uniform patches to front office stationary — everything featuring a team logo or nickname.”
Ardent and adoring Redskins fans love the team and will keep attending games and will keep rooting for them, even though most fans do not like Snyder. Goodwill and reputation apparently do not matter to him as long as the seats continue to have warm bodies in them at game-time.
Snyder has the chance to improve his image. Remember he once sued his season ticket holders who couldn’t pay during the 2008-2009 recession?
The effect of Snyder’s refusal to change the team’s name is no different than the effect of comments made by Donald Sterling, the perhaps soon to be ex-owner of the Los Angeles Clippers professional basketball team, whose racist remarks made international news a few months back. Disparagement can be felt and seen by act or by omission.
The interesting thing about the Patent Office’s ruling is that the focus was not today’s view of the name. The analysis was one that involved determining whether trademarks granted to the Redskins from 1967 to 1990 violated the Lanham Act, a law passed in 1946 that prohibited trademarks that disparaged or falsely suggested a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions or beliefs.
The very narrow legal issue for the judges was to determine if the name “Redskins” violated that prohibition when the trademarks were granted.
The patent judges agreed that today’s view and standards had no bearing on their decision.
The judges found evidence aplenty, both from Native American groups and others, that there was significant dissent to the name since 1966 and that the term was considered by many as offensive and disparaging. The majority noted that some within the Native American community did not object to the name; that fact, the judges said, does not erase a claim of disparagement.
The second most important question concerning the team, and the first, unfortunately to some, is: Will they make the playoffs?
— FOX 5 DC (@fox5newsdc) June 14, 2014
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website.
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