NFL’s Snyder fumbles the perfect opportunity

77531-nfl-washington-redskins-helmet-balloonDisagree if you’d like, but using the NFL team name “Redskins” is akin to using the N-word. It’s a racial epithet used only to disparage. It’s not a label that civil and thinking people ever apply to Native Americans.

But Washington team owner Dan Snyder sees it differently. In fact, he even used another N-word to make this point last year: “We will NEVER change the name of the team.”

We’ll see about that.

Earlier today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office negated the team’s trademark registration. Snyder insists he will appeal the ruling. But if he loses that appeal, he loses the right to protect the trademark and with it most or all of the royalties the trademark generates. That’s sure to excite the other billionaire owners of the NFL.

What’s clear to any PR professional is that Dan missed an opportunity to fix this thing. He could have accepted the ruling and put his marketing agency to work on creating a new name and logo. When the fans complained, he could have blamed it on the Feds. But instead of using the Patent Office ruling as a way out of this disaster, Dan will fight on.

Two things are clear.

1) It is within the purview of the U.S. Patent and Trademark office to deregister the trademark. Synder’s lawyers must now convince a court that the term “redskin” isn’t disparaging.

From the Washington Post:

Federal trademark law does not permit registration of trademarks that “may disparage” individuals or groups or “bring them into contempt or disrepute.” The ruling pertains to six different trademarks associated with the team, each containing the word “Redskin.”

2) The team’s ongoing campaign to maintain the name and defend it as honoring American Indians is ethically indefensible under any moral theory known to man. There is no ethical dilemma here. Snyder’s position is morally wrong.

Smart PR counsel would have urged Dan to use today’s ruling as a resolution to this long and messy affair. But arrogant billionaires love to fight City Hall. That’s just the way it is.

Here’s hoping the good guys win this one.

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