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A Supreme Court ruling versus the court of public opinion

After years of legal battles that saw them lose the rights to their controversial trademark, the NFL team based in Washington picked up a legal “fumble,” thanks to the Supreme Court. While they haven’t crossed the goal line just yet, the Redskins are in the “red zone” thanks to a decision involving the name of an Asian-American rock band.

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office discriminated against musician Simon Tam after refusing his trademark for The Slants.” Blocking trademarks based on being offensive violates the First Amendment’s free speech protection.

The precedent-setting ruling may see the return of the trademark rights back to the Redskins. The team currently has a separate case on hold in the federal appeals court pending the Supreme Court decision.

However, the court of public and business opinion has yet to rule. Legal pressure may be over, but social pressure continues when considering the heightened sensitivity over the topic. Professional and collegiate sports teams known for their Native Americans nicknames and mascots are not in the clear.

The Change the Mascot campaign claims that they never believed the issue would be settled in the courtroom. A Supreme Court decision will not have sway with the public. They cite progress in the de-emphasis of Cleveland’s Chief Wahoo and the University of North Dakota, Miami of Ohio and other teams moving away from Native American mascots.

The group and other opponents believe that the public will determine what is acceptable and what is not. Their decisions will be made clear in reduced ticket sales and refusals to support for athletic programs or colleges in general who continue to embrace Native American mascots.

A poll conducted by the Washington Post poll revealed that 90 percent of 504 Native Americans surveyed nationwide do not think the Redskins name is offensive. However, the Redskin’s first test of support may come from the team’s efforts to secure a new stadium paid for in part by taxpayer money.

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