Boycott Your NFL Team, Washington

Patent and Trademark Office ruling won’t erase slur, and probably shouldn’t.

Protesting the nickname of the Washington football team outside a Nov. 7, 2013, game against the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis.
National Journal
Ron Fournier
June 19, 2014, 4:13 a.m.

It’s pretty simple, Wash­ing­ton. Your NFL foot­ball team’s name in­sults many Nat­ive Amer­ic­ans, which makes it a slur, and the best way to erase the stain is to boy­cott the team.

Don’t go to the games, sports fans. For mem­bers of Con­gress, lob­by­ists, and oth­er polit­ic­al MVPs, just say no to the free tick­ets, box seats, and buf­fets. You shouldn’t be tak­ing these mi­cro-bribes any­way.

Don’t watch the games. Don’t wear the jer­seys. Don’t buy the spon­sors’ products. Hit churl­ish own­er Dan Snyder in the pock­et­book without tread­ing on the First Amend­ment. But don’t punt this is­sue to pat­ent law­yers and bur­eau­crats. Wash­ing­ton Post sports colum­nist Sally Jen­kins nails it:

Now that the U.S. Pat­ent and Trade­mark Of­fice has struck a gov­ern­ment­al blow against com­mod­i­fied eth­nic in­sults, I’m nervous, be­cause I may have “dis­paraged” some­body this morn­ing when I buttered my toast. After I put away the Land O’ Lakes but­ter with that In­di­an maid­en logo on the box, I bit off a chew of Red Man to­bacco and climbed in­to a Jeep Cher­o­kee.

The Wash­ing­ton foot­ball club ought to ditch its slur of a trade­mark, vol­un­tar­ily. It ought to do so on the grounds of ba­sic de­cency and good taste, and, you’d hope, with an in­tel­li­gent sense of his­tory, con­text, and place. If they won’t do it will­ingly, then the rest of us, and the team’s col­leagues in the NFL, ought to em­bar­rass, jeer, and ca­jole them in­to it. But the meth­od cur­rently be­ing em­ployed, the mo­bil­iz­a­tion of the U.S. gov­ern­ment in fa­vor of a cor­rect sens­ib­il­ity, is wrong.

Jen­kins quotes a law­yer for the ACLU, Gabe Rottman, warn­ing of the pre­ced­ent set when a gov­ern­ment agency reg­u­lates speech, then adds:

You don’t really want gov­ern­ment agen­cies to be­come the ar­bit­er of ac­cept­able words and im­ages. You really don’t. The main reas­on you don’t is be­cause, like it or not, what’s of­fens­ive is sub­ject­ive. It cre­ates “a mor­ass of un­cer­tainty,” Rottman wrote. Con­sider how many of­fens­ive vi­ol­a­tions someone could find in one epis­ode of The Fam­ily Guy. Or Game of Thrones, or Or­ange Is The New Black.

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id and mul­tiple col­leagues have been ur­ging Snyder to change the team’s name for months now.

My col­league Matt Ber­man points out that the Kennedy ad­min­is­tra­tion forced the Wash­ing­ton foot­ball team to de­seg­reg­ate — the only NFL team that hadn’t yet done so. Then-own­er George Pre­ston Mar­shall wanted to build a new sta­di­um on fed­er­al land in 1961, and the ad­min­is­tra­tion gave him an ul­ti­mat­um: Blacks play on your team or your team doesn’t play in a new sta­di­um.

Us­ing a sta­di­um as lever­age is smart. Us­ing the First Amend­ment as lever­age is as dan­ger­ous as it is un­ne­ces­sary, if Wash­ing­ton’s fans and power brokers boy­cott Snyder. I’ll do my part, no sweat.  Your team doesn’t play my De­troit Lions this year.

What We're Following See More »
WILL APPEAR TOGETHER TOMORROW
As Expected, Clinton Goes with Kaine
1 days ago
THE LATEST
SO MUCH FOR THE RATINGS BUMP
Convention Ratings Same as 2012
1 days ago
THE LATEST
8,000 DOCUMENTS
Wikileaks Releases Trove of DNC Docs
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

"Wikileaks published more than 8,000 documents purportedly taken from the Democratic National Committee Friday, just days before the start of the party's convention in Philadelphia. The documents included briefings on off-the-record fundraisers and candid photographs."

Source:
YES, WE KAINE?
Clinton Announcing VP Pick Today
1 days ago
THE LATEST

Hillary Clinton "is widely expected to announce her choice" of vice president "in an email to supporters while on a campaign swing in Florida on Friday afternoon." The consensus: it'll be Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, although Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are also said to be in the running.

Source:
EARLY BUMP FOR TRUMP?
New Round of Polls Show a Tight Race
1 days ago
THE LATEST
  • A Rasmussen Reports poll shows Donald Trump ahead of Hillary Clinton, 43%-42%, the fourth week in a row he's led the poll (one of the few poll in which he's led consistently of late).
  • A Reuters/Ipsos survey shows Clinton leading 40%-36%. In a four-way race, she maintains her four-point lead, 39%-35%, with Gary Johnson and Jill Stein pulling 7% and 3%, respectively.
  • And the LA Times/USC daily tracking poll shows a dead heat, with Trump ahead by about half a percentage point.
×