Last week the controversy over the NFL Washington Redskins’ name, deemed offensive by the professionally aggrieved, reached a new peak when the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board canceled six federal trademark registrations owned by the team.
Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who had previously blustered impotently that he wouldn’t accept an invitation to attend a Redskins home game until the team changed its name (a threat which no doubt sent waves of panic through the Redskins organization), gloated that the ruling proved “the handwriting is on the wall.” “It’s only a matter of time,” he tweeted, “until [Redskins owner] Daniel Snyder is forced to do the right thing and change the name.”
Forced to do the right thing. And there you have the totalitarian pr0gressive mindset in a nutshell: if people don’t do the “right thing” – by which the left means, of course, conform to their social justice agenda – then they must be coerced by any means necessary.
The 2-1 decision by the Board does not mean that the team must stop using the name, but Robert Tracinski at The Federalist notes that the cancellation sets a “terrifying” precedent: “This ruling happened precisely because the campaign against the Redskins has failed in the court of public opinion... So the left resorted to one of its favorite fallbacks. If the people can’t be persuaded, use the bureaucracy”:
In this case, executive officials declared that a private company doesn’t deserve the protection of the law: if the ruling survives an appeal in the courts, the federal government will stop prosecuting violations of the team’s intellectual property rights, potentially costing it millions of dollars…
[B]ureaucrats in Washington are now empowered to make subjective decrees about what is offensive and what will be tolerated, based on pressure from a small clique of Washington insiders. Anyone who runs afoul of these decrees, anyone branded as regressive and politically incorrect, is declared outside the protection of the federal government.
Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter and National Congress of American Indians executive director Jackie Pata, who call the Redskins name a “hateful slur,” hope that the patent ruling will “imperil the ability of the team’s billionaire owner to keep profiting off the denigration and dehumanization of Native Americans.”
This is a ridiculous claim, since Snyder is profiting not from dehumanizing Native Americans but from the American love of football. But what Halbritter and Pata are trying to do in their statement is smear Snyder as a “billionaire” which, in these times of anti-wealth bigotry, is as despised a label as “racist.” Among the Occupy movement left, it is code for “rapacious one-percenter who didn’t build that,” as multi-millionaire Elizabeth Warren might put it.
Barack Obama, who has a habit of injecting his personal opinion on topics that should be far beneath presidential concern, naturally spoke out in favor of jettisoning the team’s name, which offends “a sizable group of people,” he said, who have “real legitimate concerns.”
Not that sizeable. Ten years ago a poll of American Indians found that 90% of Indians polled in 48 states found the name inoffensive. In a January 2014 poll, a broad majority of adults (83%) responded that the Washington Redskins should not change their nickname. Among football fans, that majority was even higher: 87%.
The Redskins have been in existence since 1933 (although not always in Washington, D.C.). Ever since then probably no one has used the word “redskins” to refer to anything other than that team. Indeed, David Plotz at the radical Slate admitted that the word has a “relatively innocent” history, that Native Americans themselves used the word as a descriptor and not an insult. He also conceded that the team name was chosen to honor Native American bravery. Another writer at Slate traced the word’s history and found it largely benign.
“But time passes,” Plotz wrote. “Americans think differently about race and the language of race than we did 80 years ago.” And so Slate proudly announced that they simply would not use the word anymore (Mother Jones and The New Republic followed suit). “Changing the way we talk is not political correctness run amok,” wrote Plotz. True, changing the way we talk is not PC “run amok.” It is the very intent of political correctness to manipulate language and thought to conform to the progressive agenda.
Let’s be real. The rancorous debate over the Redskins name has nothing to do with assuaging the hurt feelings of Obama’s “sizeable group of people.” It is about the expansion of government control. Progressives like Harry Reid don’t truly care about Native American sensibilities any more than they care about health care for the uninsured. Both issues - all issues for progressives – are about acquiring and expanding power.
In short, the contemporary obsession with “being offended” is never truly about “being offended.” Claiming offense is a strategy of identity politics whereby a minority faction plays the victim card to further a broader agenda. “The issue is never the issue,” as Saul Alinsky used to state. “The issue is always the revolution.”
The Daily Caller, for example, listed twelve trademarks that the United States Patent and Trademark Office apparently finds less worthy of addressing than “Redskins.” Those trademarks include, among others, such brands as Uppity Negro, Dago Swag, Kraut Krap, and Figgas Over Niggas. The hypocrisy is blatant and almost hilarious. But the Washington Redskins make a more useful and visible political target.
If President Obama and his cohorts are eagerly searching to punish organizations with offensive names, perhaps they could turn their selective attention to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 6/23/14)