Supreme Court ruling on trademarks expected to help Redskins
The Supreme Court on Monday struck down part of a law that bans offensive trademarks in a ruling that is expected to help the Washington Redskins in their legal fight over the team name.
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The justices ruled that the 71-year-old trademark law barring disparaging terms infringes free speech rights.
The ruling is a victory for the Asian-American rock band called the Slants, but the case was closely watched for the impact it would have on the separate dispute involving the Washington football team.
Slants founder Simon Tam tried to trademark the band name in 2011, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied the request on the ground that it disparages Asians. A federal appeals court in Washington later said the law barring offensive trademarks is unconstitutional.
The Redskins made similar arguments after the trademark office ruled in 2014 that the name offends American Indians and canceled the team’s trademark. A federal appeals court in Richmond put the team’s case and discount jerseys on hold while waiting for the Supreme Court to rule in the Slants case.
In his opinion for the court, Justice Samuel Alito rejected arguments that trademarks are government speech, not private speech. Alito also said trademarks are not immune from First Amendment protection as part of a government program or subsidy.
Tam insisted he was not trying to be offensive, but wanted to transform a derisive term into a statement of pride. The Redskins also contend their name honors American Indians, but the team has faced decades of legal challenges from Indian groups that say the name is racist.
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Despite intense public pressure to change the name, Redskins owner Dan Snyder has refused, saying it “represents honor, respect and pride.”
In the Slants case, government officials argued that the law did not infringe on free speech rights because the band was still free to use the name even without trademark protection. The same is true for the Redskins, but the team did not want to lose the legal protections that go along with a registered trademark. The protections include blocking the sale of counterfeit merchandise, and working to pursue a brand development strategy.
But what about Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins?
Football Outsiders didn’t overlook Washington’s champions of 1991, naming that year’s team the best team of the last 30 years. Washington also won Super Bowls in 1982 and 1987, but neither of those teams even cracked Football Outsiders’ Top 30. The 1991 team, though, was the lone squad to appear on all three (offense, defense and special teams) of Football Outsiders’ defense-adjusted value over average metric rankings of the last 30 years.
NFL Network’s Charley Casserly was the general manager who built the team. He constructed a squad that dominated in all three phases of the game, just as the advanced metrics show.
Unlike other memorable teams of their time, the 1991 Washington squad didn’t have a catchy nickname or Hall of Famer under center. Mark Rypien posted the best season of his career in 1991, completing 249 of 421 passes for 3,564 yards, 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Washington’s leading rusher was Earnest Byner (274 carries, 1,048 yards, five touchdowns), a standout runner whose career leading up to the 1990s was defined mostly by one heartbreaking play he had with Cleveland jersey.
Both made the Pro Bowl in 1991, and the Redskins rolled, posting the league-high for points scored (485) and second-best defense in points allowed (224). Washington was one meaningless second half in Week 17 away from finishing first in both categories.
The strength of the 1991 team was in its depth, boasting eight Pro Bowlers and three Hall of Famers. Washington had a trio of dangerous receivers in Hall of Famer Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders. Monk and Clark each broke 1,000 yards receiving while Sanders scored five touchdowns on 580 yards receiving. The backfield included Byner, as well as Ricky Ervins and Gerald Riggs, who combined to rush for 928 yards and 14 touchdowns.
NFL Network’s Michael Silver noted that Jones was told by coach Jay Gruden that he entered June as the team’s No. 5 running back. Buried on the depth chart behind Rob Kelley and rookie Samaje Perine, Jones still showed up for mandatory minicamp on Monday.
Engelhard would like to see this awkward song and dance come to a sensible conclusion for his client and discount nfl jerseys, saying: “Let’s move on. We’re hoping (team president Bruce Allen) sees the light and does the gentleman thing and release Matt.”
Perhaps the Redskins are hoping to trade Jones, but that remains a tall order when 31 other teams know he’ll eventually be released. The third-year back put moments of strong game film on tape over the past two seasons, but wound up in Gruden’s dog house after a rash of costly fumbles.
Just 24 years old, Jones will certainly find work elsewhere and could even wind up starting games in a pinch. That won’t happen in Washington, though, which begs the question: When will this tedious drama come to an end?