Thursday, June 19, 2014

Guard the Post: No longer protected, whats next?

It has been quite a few months since I've written about the issue surrounding the name of the Washington professional football team, but after the news of yesterday, it is time to get back in the game. The U.S. Patent and Trademark office removed the trademark from the Washington Redskins name yesterday in a 2-1 decision.

This has been a long debate and a case that was brought to this office by a group of Native Americans. The most recent conversation around this issue is the involvement of law makers and politicians, including President Obama.

Sports, though sometimes deemed a light-hearted form of entertainment, has a major pull on the political landscape of America. Any billion dollar industry that relies heavily on public funding to develop their franchises is going to need political clout locally and nationally, especially if your title city is Washington, DC.

Last month, 50 U.S. Senator signed a letter to the NFL encouraging them to back the changing of the name, stating that the league needs to realize that the name is racist.

The letter stated, in part: "Today, we urge you and the National Football League to send the same clear message the NBA did: that racism and bigotry have no place in professional sports. It's time for the NFL to endorse a name change." The NBA reference, of course, is to the banning of Donald Sterling in reaction to the racial spat with his girlfriend.

Following this letter, the National Congress of American Indians and the Oneida Indian Nation announced that they would be sending a letter to every NFL player encouraging them to speak out against the name. After a lack of action from the NFL, these parties decided to take it beyond the bouncers at the door and into the heart of the NFL locker rooms, the players.

With the decision by the Patent Office, another governmental body is making it clear that they do not support the name. The Redskins announced right away that they will appeal which is a process that could take years; during that time period, the Redskins will be able to retain their legal right to name, even if it isn't truly rightful.

This clear precedent setting shows that if they are unwilling to change the name that others will go through other means to try and force their hand. I think it is important, that although an appeal will wrap this up in court for years, that the groups fighting against this stay strong and don't allow the money and power in the sport world to override their rights, as human beings, to not be disparaged by the name of a team.

Kevin Murray is a Pre-Junior Sport Management major at Drexel University, originally from Havertown, PA. In the past, Kevin has worked for Drexel Sport Management doing research on Title IX and collegiate sport, as well as for Drexel Athletics in multiple roles culminating in his first co-op in the External Relations department, where he still works part-time. Along with his duties as a Resident Assistant on campus and as the Vice President of Drexel SMTSU, Kevin is currently on co-op with the Drexel University Office of Institutional Advancement as a Student Liaison for their Alumni Discovery Initiative.  You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kevinj_murrayConnect with Kevin on LinkedIn.

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