In his novel 1984, George Orwell noted that a government’s ultimate weapon is to control the truth. Once you can do that, all power follows.
That brings us to today’s 2-1 ruling by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office that trademarks registered by the Washington Redskins dating back to 1967 are no longer valid because the term is “disparaging” to indigenous tribes. The ruling reversed a decade-old precedent that any trademark challenge was, at a minimum, untimely as the team had relied on the famous brand for years.
(Apparently today’s patent judges understand the year 1967 much better than the PTO judges at that time).
Of course, the decision will be appealed and likely reversed as the petitioners presented no actual new evidence to overturn the 2003 opinion. However, while it’s with us, it’s interesting to note the political cross-currents. As with so many recent opinions in the twilight of the Obama era, this one reeked of political correctness, i.e. the Orwellian principal that all viewpoints matter but some matter more than others.
The fact that Redskins football jersey was the most popular NFL jersey in 2012-2013? Doesn’t matter.
The fact the team has sold every regular season ticket since 1966? Doesn’t matter.
The fact that the team’s television ratings surpass all the other D.C. sports franchises combined? Doesn’t matter.
The fact that consumers have the choice to not attend games? Doesn’t matter.
All that matters is achieving the result which validates the grievance. Is someone offended by your brand name or logo? Then change it. (Braves and Indians, you’re coming next). Did you spend eighty years building that brand into one of the most recognized in the world? Tough luck. Some dweeb at the PTO can revoke it at will.
(ed. note: Ironically, the most disparaging sports names — “Yankees,” “Fighting Irish,” “Canucks” — continue on undisturbed. Because insulting a group without a historic grievance is considered no insult at all).
As in all cases involving political correctness, those of us on the “wrong side” of the War Against the Redskins (“the WAR”) are constantly told our defeat is inevitable. We are now facing the righteous might of the Federal government, as well as every reputable journalist and media source in America, which has attached itself to the cause du jour.
In the face of the WAR, does anyone have the back of a few thousand loyal Redskins fans who never did anything wrong, except to love a football franchise that united this town in way nobody did before? Anybody?
I will say that I reached out in February to my U.S. Senators on the subject of the WAR. In doing so, I specifically asked them whether the Redskins name was the proper subject of Federal intervention. After the usual qualifying, I got an actual answer: no.
Of course, they are free to speak up against today’s unfair, inconsistent and abusive use of Federal power by the PTO. But that would take courage.
And in the WAR, that trait is missing in action.