Why Is the Redskins Name a Political Issue?
So the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has elected not to protect the Washington Redskins' trademarks. Given that this show of common decency has happened with Obama sitting in the Oval Office, there can be only one explanation coming from some of the right-wing pundits. Take it away, Rush Limbaugh:
This is not the Patent and Trademark Office. This is Barack Obama. ... This is executive branch. All this stuff is coming out of the executive branch. All of this, well, tyranny. It's all coming from the executive branch, and Obama owns the executive branch. He is the executive branch. But yet it's never reported that way. It's never, "The Obama administration today canceled the trademark ownership and registration the Washington Redskins." No, it's the Patent and Trademark Office -- a nameless, faceless bunch of geeks. Wrong! Barack Obama's administration did this. Barack Obama's administration lied to you about keeping your doctor.
From Redskins to "keeping your doctor" ... true, Mr. Limbaugh, these things are quite obviously related.
Yes, President Obama has commented publicly that he supports a name change. And yes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, has spearheaded efforts to change the name, including a letter, signed by 50 Democratic Senators, to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. But as PolitiFact explains, Limbaugh's idea that the "tyranny" is Obama's doing simply isn't right: The three judges who ruled in the case are all George W. Bush appointees.
Furthermore, as Matt Bruenig explains at The Week, the USPTO's ruling is not an example of the dreaded Big Government. It is smaller government. "The Patent Office did not fine the Redskins," Bruenig points out. "It did not arrest or jail anyone associated with the Redskins. It didn't even tell the team that the name must be changed. Instead, the Patent Office declared its future intention to literally do nothing. It decided that, because there are racially derogatory slurs involved in this trademark claim, the government is going to sit on its hands and stay out of the matter altogether. In short, the Patent Office has abdicated its role in regulating use of this name, instead opting for a small-government, hands-off, libertarian stance on the question of who can use 'Redskins.'"
Facts, though, seem to go out the window almost immediately -- if it happened with Barack Obama sitting in the Oval Office, Obama did it, and it's a sign of the apocalypse. Tea Party News Network's report on the ruling makes a similar pivot, from the Redskins trademark case to the IRS:
With the intimidation of Tea Party groups by the IRS for daring to express their dissent against the policies of Barack Obama, many individuals faced personal or business audits in addition to the prolonged wait for 501c4 approval. It looks like a similar tactic is being used to strong-arm Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins organization to succumb to the pressure of the PC police – either fall in line, or experience your economic livelihood and freedoms being threatened.
Yes, the two things are obviously connected.
As some conservatives tie themselves in knots trying to see tyranny in ending overt, commercially lucrative racism, they ought to consider the words of Charles Krauthammer. He's the conservative pundit who, in a piece called "Redskins and Reason," cited the example of a racial term that was decommissioned years ago: Negro.
You would stop [using the word 'negro'] not because of the language police. Not because you might incur a Bob Costas harangue. Not because the president would wag a finger. But simply because the word was tainted, freighted with negative connotations with which you would not want to be associated.
It's a myth that the cause of changing the Washington team's name is inherently liberal. Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a Republican and an enrolled Chickasaw, feels the name should change, and sent a letter to Roger Goodell saying so (so much for the claim that Indians don't care about the issue). And John McCain, while stating that he disagrees with the USPTO's ruling, nonetheless said that he "would probably change the name" if he were in Dan Snyder's position.
Why is this a political issue? This is about decency, and being on the right side of history, and shrugging off more of the racial baggage that the United States has carried for so long. The country's land was taken from Natives by genocide and broken promises, and its economy was built with the labor of a few generations of black slaves. That's the history; those are facts the country cannot change. We can change the name of a football team to something that is less... genocide-y. Why wouldn't we? Because of Barack Obama, health insurance and the IRS? That makes no sense.
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