New York Times Flips Stance, Now Supports Washington Redskins Keeping Trademark

New York Times
Instagram user kaylaaajang
June 20, 2017

The New York Times reversed its editorial position Tuesday and now supports the Washington Redskins football team retaining its federal trademark.

The Times argued in 2014 that it was "clear that federal law prohibits the Patent and Trademark Office from registering trademarks that disparage people or bring them 'into contempt, or disrepute.'"

"That is why the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board was right in ruling on Wednesday that six trademarks granted to the owners of the Washington Redskins football team should be canceled because the name is disparaging to many American Indians," the paper concluded.

Free speech advocates at the time disagreed, arguing that the government should not act as the arbitrator of what speech is and is not offensive. Even if one found the term "Redskins" offensive, the ACLU argued, "government coercion ... isn't the way to make it right."

The Supreme Court agreed on Monday, finding 8-0 that an Asian-American band had the right to trademark "The Slants," even though some Asians would find the the term offensive. Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the law banning such trademarks "offends a bedrock First Amendment principle: Speech may not be banned on the ground that it expresses ideas that offend."

The ruling guarantees the Redskins will win their fight to keep their trademark. In a reaction editorial from the Times, the publication retracted its previous opposition.

"At the time, this page supported the Trademark Office's decision, and we still regard the Redskins name as offensive," the editorial board wrote. "Based on this case, however, we've since reconsidered our underlying position."