Redskins New Potty Mouth Trademark Defense Ludicrous
Also Destroys Claim That Team Name Honors Native Americans
The Washington “Redskins” has just submitted a new legal brief seeking to defend its trademark by equating it with crude expressions – one, the Washington Post says, full of “frat-boy vulgarity” which could have been written by Andrew Dice Clay – but it’s totally unpersuasive and also destroys the team’s prior legal claim that the name honors Native Americans, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who is well known for suggesting that the word “redskins,” like the word “n*gg*ers,” should not be used by licensed radio and TV broadcasters.
Banzhaf says that, for several reasons, the Redskins’ new potty-mouth frar-boy argument is as nonsensical as their historically-inaccurate claim that the word honors Native Americans. Indeed, by equating the team’s name with many crude and insulting words and phrases, they now openly concede what most have long known – the name brings no honor to anyone.
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“TAKE YOU PANTIES OFF” – like “SLUTSSEEKER” “DUMB BLONDE,” “BIG TITT,” and similar words cited by the team in its new brief – may be crude and have sexual connotations, but they are in no way anywhere near the equivalent to the most offensive racial slur relating to Americans Indians. Indeed, “redskins” is far more akin to “n*gg*rs” than to “HOT OCTOPUSS.”
Moreover, words such as “DANGEROUS NEGRO” and “GHETTO BOOTY” – like “coon” or “jungle bunny” – may be mildly derogatory in a racial sense, but cannot reasonably be compared in their sting and harmful effect to other profound and uniquely virulent racial slurs like “n*gg*r” or “redskins.” Indeed, Native Americans have sworn under oath that the word “Redskins” has caused physical as well all mental pain to American Indian children and adults; reactions none of the marks cited by the team is likely to cause.
Moreover, it seems clear that few if any of the words and phrases which have been cited meet the standard for invalidating the trademark if they were ever challenged, and that is very unlikely to happen for several reasons.
Virtually nobody has ever seen or heard of any of these trademarks, whereas the trademark “Redskins” is heard and seen – and therefore affects the attitudes if not the actions of – tens of millions of Americans, including many very impressionable children who are not exposed to the other trademarks.
Also, it appears that most of the cited marks are likely to be used only in crude magazines and web sites aimed at a very very narrow audience with rare off-beat if not perverted tastes, not seen on national television, heard on thousands of radio stations, and appearing in major newspapers and magazines to a much larger audience made up of unwilling viewers who don’t share or even tolerate such crude tastes and interests.
The single word “Redskins” has been publicly condemned by the President, many members of Congress, over 100 major civil rights organizations, virtually all organizations representing the affected group (Native Americans), the D.C. City Council, and many others. None of the words cited by the NFL team meets even one of these many criteria.
In short, this latest filing by the team is both a recognition of the paucity of their legal position, and a long overdue admission that the mark does not honor Native Americans.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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