My position on this issue has been well documented, as I’ve written multiple pieces and updates on the progression of this debate since joining the site in January. As you as readers know by now, the Washington Redskins name has come under serious scrutiny from prominent figures around the country. Early last month, a large congregation of Senators sent letters to the Redskins front office urging owner Dan Snyder to change the team’s name. House Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has spoken out against the team name on multiple occasions. During the NBA Finals, the National Congress of American Indians ran a commercial advertisement that can be found here, providing a voice for the Native American community that had not yet been broadcast to the masses so explicitly as it was when the commercial aired.
The latest development in the discussion came earlier today, when the U.S. Patent and Trademark office announced that the team’s trademarks have been cancelled, on the basis that the team name is disparaging and offensive to the Native American populace.
While this decision is unlikely to shake the ground beneath Snyder’s feet, the more vocal our political leadership and government agencies are on this issue, the more vocal the fans around the league become. The ruling unfortunately doesn’t carry enough weight to force Snyder to change the team’s name, but it does provide a difficult business hurdle that the team’s organization will now struggle to surpass.
According to Frank Vuono, former VP of retail licensing for the NFL, the Redskins stand to lose “tens of millions” on the royalties off merchandise sales, that corporate sponsors will now be able to forgo if they choose to use the Redskins franchise as a means to promote their own brand. Essentially, a local pizza chain like Papa John’s or Domino’s can now do a Sunday Special for football games and send brochures out with the Redskins name and logo on it, allowing the chain to benefit from smart marketing without having to pay the Redskins a dime.
They can’t make Dan Snyder change his team name. Unlike the Donald Sterling controversy in the NBA there is no clause in the NFL constitution that would force Snyder to make a decision backed by the public’s interest. So the best way to get Snyder to change his team name, is to put him in a position where he himself wants the name changed. Today was a great first step, because while the Redskins are one of the most lucrative franchises in all of sports, any good businessman (and Snyder despite his character flaws is a good businessman) knows that today’s decision by the PTO to cancel all registered trademarks is going to cost the Redskins a lot of money.
Taking away the one thing that Snyder wants most, might just force him to fold his hand, and change the name to something that is not disrespectful to an ethnic group that has been subject to persecution and isolation since we arrived in this country. Not even the Original Americans foundation that Snyder established is enough to convince me that the term “Redskin” isn’t racist, and it’s only a matter of time before Snyder feels the heat and rectifies an 82-year old wrong.
Another take on the economic impact of the name change can be found here.