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
Add to Briefcase
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 »
OUTLAYS TO DECREASE 2% PER YEAR
Trump Budget Would Cut $1.4 Trillion from Non-Defense Spending
4 hours ago
THE LATEST
Source:
MORE PROBLEMS FOR WHITE HOUSE
Flynn Lied To Investigators About Foreign Payments
4 hours ago
BREAKING
COMEY WANTS TO TALK TO MUELLER FIRST
Chaffetz Postpones Comey’s Testimony
6 hours ago
THE LATEST

Former FBI Director Jim Comey won't be testifying before Jason Chaffetz's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday as originally planned. Chaffetz, the committee chairman, "announced Monday that Comey wants to speak with Robert Mueller, the former FBI director now serving as a special counsel overseeing the agency's investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign, before testifying publicly."

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Many Examples of Plagiarism Did CNN Find in Sheriff Clarke’s Thesis?
6 hours ago
THE ANSWER

Forty-seven. The Milwaukee official is up for a position in the Department of Homeland Security.

Source:
TOOTHLESS?
UN Security Council Condemns N. Korea Launch
8 hours ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login