WASHINGTON — The Redskins’ name has suddenly become intertwined with the Confederate flag, as an appellate hearing on the team’s cancelled federal trademark protections intersected in the last week with a Supreme Court decision in Texas, and with South Carolina’s decision to remove the flag from Capitol grounds in light of an attack that killed nine people in a historic black church in Charleston.
Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Texas government did not overstep the First Amendment in denying the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ request for specialty license plates bearing the Confederate flag.
An important caveat in the ruling, the justices determined Texas allowing such license plates would constitute “government speech,” or, essentially, the government would be condoning the Confederate flag.
This week, lawyers for the Redskins began their judicial effort to reverse the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s June 2014 ruling to cancel the team’s six trademark protections on grounds of the name ‘Redskins’ being “disparaging” to Native Americans.
In Tuesday’s appellate hearing for “Blackhorse v. Pro Football, Inc.,” Judge Gerald Bruce Lee asked both parties to address whether the Supreme Court’s licence plate ruling applies to the Redskins’ “free speech” argument.
Redskins lead attorney Robert Raskopf argued the license plate ruling does not apply to the Redskins, according to The Washington Post, reportedly saying the trademark registrations are more closely associated with the brand-holder, rather than the government.
From The Post, via Ian Shapira:
[Raskopf] said that when people think of Coca-Cola’s trademark, they don’t think about the government’s role, they think of the soda manufacturer.
“A Coke can,” Raskopf said, “is not a license plate.”
“This is pure private speech,” he argued.
On Wednesday, Keith Olbermann tied these all together on his eponymous ESPN television show, in yet another call to action for the NFL to be rid of the name ‘Redskins’ once and for all.
“In one week since the unspeakable happened in Charleston, South Carolina, under the most tragic of circumstances, we finally have driven home — to most of us — how dangerous, and how evil, mere symbols can be,” he said.
“The state of South Carolina, the first state to secede from this nation in 1861, the first state to attack a U.S. military base, the first state to kill active United States military personnel on American soil — even the state of South Carolina has realized how a mere flag, a simple pattern on cloth, can not only be offensive, but can activate and enable evil and even murder.”
Pointing to the Confederate flag being admonished by NASCAR, and its removal from South Carolina’s Capitol grounds, as well as from Warner Bros.-owned “Dukes of Hazzard” toy cars, Olbermann noted, “All of this happening while the name, quote, ‘Redskins,’ unquote, is effectively on trial in Virginia.
“All of this happening while we see that a symbol like a flag can not only invoke and encourage racism and violence, and madness, and murder and treason, but that it can do something even worse: it can represent evil, and represent genocide, and the persecution and mockery of a group of people because of the color of their skin. And if a flag can do that, a football team name — beamed into our homes every day, our headphones, our minds every day — it can represent the same kind of evil, the same kind of genocide, the same kind of persecution and mockery of a group of people because of the color of their skin.”
Olbermann, in his diatribe, observed how Raskopf had neglected in his argument to the U.S. District Court to defend the team’s name against claims it is offensive, instead electing to defend it on grounds of free speech.
“There is a good reason that Dan Snyder’s lawyer did not tell the judge that the name, quote, ‘Redskins,’ unquote, isn’t offensive,” Olbermann said.
“That’s because it is. And he knows it.”