Washington Redskins: Fallout from Supreme Court ruling in key case
By Desmond Lee
Issues Going Forward
Given the broad reach of the Court’s ruling, the Fourth Circuit is expected to rule in the Redskins favor by reinstating the trademarks that the PTO had cancelled. When that will ultimately happen is, at this time, uncertain, but the Redskins have taken steps to expedite that process.
Two days after the Court’s decision, the Redskins submitted a letter to the Fourth Circuit requesting that, in light of the Court’s decision in the band’s matter, it reverse the district court’s decision upholding the PTO’s cancellation of the team’s trademarks. That same day, the Fourth Circuit solicited each of the parties’ position on whether oral argument was necessary, setting a deadline of July 3, 2017 for a response.
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Not surprisingly, the Redskins responded the very next day, arguing that oral argument was unnecessary given the dispositive nature of the Court’s decision on the issues in the team’s case. As of this writing, Blackhorse has not submitted a response to the Fourth’s Circuit inquiry on oral argument.
While the Court did not pass on the substantive issue of whether the Redskins name was disparaging, its ruling nonetheless drives the Redskins narrative that its team name is not offensive. The Court’s ruling complements a Washington Post poll last May which returned results showing that 90 percent of Native Americans were not offended by the team’s name. The Post’s poll numbers in 2016 mirrored those of one taken by the Annenberg Foundation in 1994.
Buoyed by this strong showing of social acceptance of the team’s name and armed once again with the protections of federal trademark law, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder was justifiably “THRILLED” in all caps by this latest judicial development.
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This new-found euphoria, of course, can’t distract the team from some of its other on-field and off-season issues, not the least of which is pressing concern of the long-term future of its quarterback Kirk Cousins. Snyder and those in Redskins Nation can only hope to use this heartening victory off the field to yield similar returns on the field to build on the team’s first consecutive winning seasons in two decades.
Update: On June 28, 2017, the Department of Justice, which intervened in the Redskins trademark case, advised the Fourth Circuit that it concurred with the Redskins that oral argument wasn’t necessary and that the team’s trademarks should be restored. The next day, on June 29, 2017, Blackhorse notified the court that she also agreed on both counts.
The Fourth Circuit will be sending this matter down to the district court judge that originally decided the Redskins matter. He will complete the formality of returning the protections of trademark law to the Redskins shortly thereafter.