U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin says it’s time for the Washington Redskins professional football team to drop its name, which is considered racist by many tribal organizations.
“It has become clear to me over time that the name of the “Washington Redskins” is an affront to Native Americans and it is time to change it,” Harkin said Thursday in his weekly conference call with Iowa reporters. “This football team enjoys a lot of public support here around the seat of government, and it is just an affront to Native Americans. “
He added that he had heard the comparison made, “What if the New England Patriots were called the New England Whiteskins?”
If Arizona Sen. John McCain owned the Washington Redskins, he would consider changing the name of the organization…
“I don’t think it’s a role for the patent office, honest to god,” he said. “I kind of thought the patent office was supposed to be involved in patents. But I do believe if the Native American community views this as offensive, then it’s offensive.”…
“We have many local tribes in my state of Arizona, and they come to me and tell me its offensive, ok? So if its offensive, then why don’t we take that into consideration?” McCain said. “One of the most darkest chapters in American history is our relations with the Native Americans. When an advanced civilization collides with a less advanced one, really terrible things happen. And it’s probably the worst chapter in American history, as we went west and became the nation that we are, we really did some terrible things. And many of our Native Americans are very sensitive because of our history.
We have U.S. Senators attacking a private Virginia business because of its name. And let’s get one thing clear: this isn’t an organic movement. This is a made movement. This is a movement created by a rich member of the Oneida Tribe up in Connecticut [sic], who’s funding it, who’s promoting it…
“And the last thing I’ll say about this movement for the Redskins to change their name: it truly is political correctness on steroids in overdrive. That’s exactly what it is. So ladies and gentlemen, we’re here to protect the integrity of a Virginia business that thousands, tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Virginians love to support and love to cheer for. And they’re proud of the Redskins name, and they do not think that there’s ANY racism in that name. They see it as a point of pride, as do I.”
[N]ow Snyder is fighting back by trying to create some positive media of his own. Which, we suppose, is the reason he, as reported by NBC 12, has hired liberal political blogger Ben Tribbett.
“I have been a Redskins fan my entire life,” Tribbett said, via the website. “It is an honor to help the team promote a tradition that means so much to so many people.”
It’s an interesting hire for the team, because so much of the pressure to change the name has emanated from those who would consider themselves left-leaning in the political world. Considering that’s where Tribbett’s political loyalties also seem to lie, perhaps Snyder believes he can win this fight by convincing a liberal that he can convince other liberals to temper down the pressure…
Writes NBC 12: “Tribbett is a known progressive figure in Virginia who is in passionate support of defending the nickname. He brings deep political ties to the conversation and has a unique knack for understanding the changing political winds in the State Capitol. It shows that Snyder is continuing to bare down in a fight that doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.”
[W]e are just getting started. We will not give up, no matter what future rulings say. We intend to change not only the Washington team’s name, but the names of other sports franchises that treat us as mascots or relics —as if we had died out as a people long ago. If Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington football team, finally sees the light and agrees to drop his franchise’s despicable name, it will prove to be an important precedent in professional sports. We have already had tremendous success at the local and college level, where governing bodies are less concerned about dollars and more sensitive to their communities. Since 1970, when the University of Oklahoma retired its mascot “Little Red,” colleges and elementary, middle and high schools nationwide have dropped more than 2,000 such “Indian” stereotypes from their athletic programs. By our count that’s more than two-thirds of all such names, meaning we have a little more than 900 to go…
By trumping up these phony histories and pretending that its use of the R-word is far less offensive than it really is, the Washington franchise has managed to keep public outrage to a minimum—until recently. But judging from the growing outcry against the R-word—even from well-known sports pundits like Bob Costas – the team can’t hold back the tide of opposition much longer. It has declared that it will appeal the TTAB’s decision. It might produce actual Native supporters in this round, but no show of support will equal the widespread Native opposition to the team’s name, nor eventually that of the American public as a whole.
But even if the NFL and Redskins brass come to their senses and rename the team, a greater symbolic injustice would continue to afflict Indians — an injustice perpetuated not by a football club but by our federal government.
In the United States today, the names Apache, Comanche, Chinook, Lakota, Cheyenne and Kiowa apply not only to Indian tribes but also to military helicopters. Add in the Black Hawk, named for a leader of the Sauk tribe. Then there is the Tomahawk, a low-altitude missile, and a drone named for an Indian chief, Gray Eagle. Operation Geronimo was the end of Osama bin Laden…
If the native tribes did not stand a chance, this does not imply lack of resistance or of courage; regardless, it doesn’t much matter in this context. Whatever courage they had, the U.S. military is not heir to it. If honor matters to the members of our armed forces, they will agree.
Few people would have expected the future of the Redskins to be determined by an obscure panel in a relatively small government agency. Yet the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board showed little restraint in launching itself into this heated argument — issuing an opinion that supports calls for change from powerful politicians, including President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). The board had at its disposal a ridiculously ambiguous standard that allows the denial of a trademark if it “may disparage” a “substantial composite” of a group at the time the trademark is registered.
This standard isn’t concerned with how widely offensive a trademark may be now, or with how the general population or even a majority of the group in question views it. It didn’t matter to the patent office that polls show substantial majorities of the public and the Native American community do not find the name offensive…
When agencies engage in content-based speech regulation, it’s more than the usual issue of “mission creep.” As I’ve written before in these pages, agencies now represent something like a fourth branch in our government — an array of departments and offices that exercise responsibilities once dedicated exclusively to the judicial and legislative branches. Insulated from participatory politics and accountability, these agencies can shape political and social decision-making. To paraphrase Clausewitz, water, taxes and even trademarks appear to have become the continuation of politics by other means.
What is needed is a new law returning these agencies to their core regulatory responsibilities and requiring speech neutrality in enforcement. We do not need faceless federal officials to become arbiters of our social controversies. There are valid objections to the Redskins name, but it is a public controversy that demands a public resolution, not a bureaucratic one.
Trademarks propose a commercial transaction. When you see or hear a trademark, you immediately receive information in a short-hand way that communicates where the products come from, or what level of service you can expect. Trademarks are First Amendment protected expression. There should be no issue with limiting their use to mislead the public. After all, what point do they serve if they do not propose a truthful association with their owner? And what rational governmental purpose does it serve to deny a benefit to a business because it might be deemed “immoral” by someone?
And why are we even arguing the point? The government should not be in the business of deciding what is moral, immoral, or offensive. This section of the trademark act is a leftover from Victorian times, and is used now primarily to promote social agendas with coercive censorship…
In this case, what is the governmental purpose in depriving the Redskins of their trademark registration? Is it that the government is serving as a morality teacher? Is it choosing a favored position, and then enforcing it by only giving government benefits to companies that agree with that orthodoxy?
Debate has been simmering for a while now on whether the Washington Redskins football team should change its name. Some people consider it offensive. There’s a reasonable debate to be had on that question. But the federal government has now taken sides in this cultural controversy: The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office canceled the team’s trademark registrations on the grounds that they disparage Native Americans.
The most troubling of these stories is the last one, because the government is getting involved — and because there are calls for it to get more involved. The Washington Post editorialized that the trademark decision was a blow for tolerance, which seems close to the opposite of the truth, and noted approvingly that senators with a say in the team’s tax status had urged a name change. But using the power of government to settle these disputes can’t set a good precedent…
If we want to avoid becoming a culture of endless grievance-taking and witch-hunting, we must also show some judgment about which provocations are necessary ones.
Americans would enhance domestic tranquility by giving offense—but also by taking it—less readily. Those having, or claiming to have, porcelain egos may secure political victories by wielding the power to shame and silence, but do not deserve respect. As the whole world becomes a china shop, the only way to avoid being a bull, or a bully, is to stand perfectly still, endlessly.
Demanding that people never say anything that might be taken as an affront creates perverse incentives, however. As it becomes clear that efforts not to offend are futile, being a bull becomes a way to rebuke the china shop’s proliferating, arbitrary, asymmetrical rules. For his own safety and Holland’s concord, it would have been better if Theo van Gogh had not routinely referred to that country’s Muslim population as “goat f**kers.” When, however, the governing pieties become utterly suffocating, being as offensive as possible comes to seem like the only way to raise questions ruled unfit for polite society—like the status, rights, and duties of Muslim immigrants in the Netherlands—as well as to protest the whole regime of discourse propriety. Twenty-first-century American conservatives may be tempted to emulate van Gogh by, for example, defending “Washington Redskins” unreservedly and campaigning to bring back Chief Noc-a-Homa in the bargain. If you’re going to be denounced for insensitivity no matter how hard you try to play nice, in other words, you may as well go out of your way to play rough.
We, the American people, must cease being distracted by peripheral issues and demand that our government officials focus their attention on the myriad problems that threaten to destroy our way of life. Like the ancient Romans, we are in danger of being distracted by relatively unimportant issues while our society crumbles beneath us. I challenge those who say I am exaggerating to a debate on this issue.
Many people equate political correctness with kind and compassionate speech. The two things are vastly different and have very different purposes. Political correctness is meant to control thought patterns and speech content, creating unanimity and societal conformity, while kind and compassionate speech is meant to take into consideration the feelings and circumstances of others without compromising the truth. It is a much better alternative.
We need to be wary of those who attempt to convince groups of people that they should be offended by a word, phrase, or symbol instead of concentrating on the real message being conveyed. These people remind me of the troublemakers in grade school who enjoyed watching the fallout from their devious ploys.
In today’s politically correct society, we are in danger of extinguishing interpersonal communications altogether for fear of offending someone. All of this would be comically absurd if it were not so tragic and such an immense departure from the ideal of a free and prosperous society that was envisioned by our Founders.