Supreme Court Rules Law That Barred Washington Redskins From Registering Trademark Is Unconstitutional

The Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled Monday that the law used by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to prevent the Washington Redskins from registering trademarks in direct relation to the word “Redskins” and any logos used by the franchise has been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Justice Samuel Alito authored the high court’s decision, a 39-page document in which Alito details the court’s stance on a multitude of situations involving this case.

“It offends a bedrock First Amendment principle,” said Alito. “Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend.”

The Alito authored ruling goes on to say that it’s the court’s position that it is “far-fetched to suggest that the content of a registered mark is government speech, especially given the fact that if trademarks become government speech when they are registered, the Federal Government is babbling prodigiously and incoherently.”

The ruling came from the Matal, Interim Director, United States Patent and Trademark Office v. Tam case that the court has been in charge of hearing since September of 2016. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had denied a band application name, The Slants, saying the band name was disparaging to certain racial and ethnic groups. The Court ruled 8-0 in favor of the band saying that when they were denied protection under a provision of the 1946 Lanham Trademark Act their constitutional rights were violated.

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board revoked six federal trademark registrations belonging to the Redskins in 2014 citing the fact they believed the 85-year-old team name to be disparaging. The ruling was affirmed by a federal judge in July of 2015, but the Redskins were allowed to continue to use the name and logo’s while the appeal was being heard. While the Redskins case still has no official ruling, the Slants ruling opens the door for Washington to say the same exact thing.

In a statement released after the ruling, Redskins owner Dan Snyder said, “I am THRILLED! Hail to the Redskins.”

The Washington Redskins franchise itself has had to endure multiple attacks by the media and government along the way. Team owner Daniel Snyder has stated since the case first reached national attention that the franchise would never change the name. Snyder’s goal was to try to open the organization up to conversation with those who may be offended by the name while also attempting to help those who may be in need with The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation. While the foundation is still up and running, and the team stays committed to conversation with those who are offended, the actual number of people who are verbally offended has dwindled in the last six to eight months.

The Washington Post published a poll in May of 2016 that showed that nine out of 10 Native Americans are not offended by the name.

The Redskins firmest opposition has always been the Oneida Indian Nation, who also issued a statement in response to the Supreme Court. The Oneidas are run by billionaire casino executive Ray Halbritter and have paid for the Change the Name movement since day one while trying to create the appearance of a grassroots type of campaign. The change movement seemingly fell apart after the political climate stopped addressing it over the last year.

[Featured Image by Patrick Smith/Getty Images]