Editorial: Boundary’s push tests, strengthens

Jul. 02, 2014 @ 11:48 PM

Government choices, routinely made for us whether we realize it or not, test and strengthen the boundaries of our democracy. A ruling against an NFL team last month is a harder push than usual and sure to be hyped as we approach another football season.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office cancelled the trademark of the NFL team in our nation’s capitol. Originally the Boston Braves, it has been known as the Washington Redskins since the 1930s, even through changes of ownership.

The patent office has the ability to deny trademarks that “may disparage” people. The Grand Canyon-wide language has been around since the Truman administration.

The First Amendment has a century and a half on the 1946 law. And the football team’s owner has grounds to believe his rights from it are getting trampled.

The First Amendment doesn’t protect anyone from being offended, but it does protect them from being silenced or punished by the government for what they say.

It is why protests can include the burning of our country’s flag. It is why marches for things we find offensive are allowed on our public streets.

Copyrights protect musicians’ works, from country to rap and all points between and beyond. While lyrics of any can offend, the First Amendment prevails.

With the NFL team, a gray area is getting cleared by a government telling people they should be offended. We believe people will tell the owner — through choices to buy merchandise, picket games, go to the stadium, etc.

Proof is on the West Coast, where fans rebuked Frank McCourt until he ultimately sold the Los Angeles Dodgers pro baseball team. It could happen to Daniel Snyder, too.

Interestingly, a poll 10 years ago indicated 90 percent of Native Americans were not offended by the NFL team’s name. And in 2013, another poll found 79 percent of all American ethnicities opposed changing it, with 18 percent of “non-white football fans” favoring change.

But perhaps the most interesting nugget is the federal agency’s move to action being prompted in part by Amanda Blackhorse. She’s a Navajo who lives on a reservation. That reservation is home to the Red Mesa High School Redskins, a name she opposes but the Native Americans who picked it do not and still retain.