PHOENIX — The U.S. Patent Office, Trademark Trial and Appeal Board decided Wednesday to cancel the Washington Redskins’ trademarks, which includes protection for team’s name and logo, because it is “disparaging of Native Americans.”
“On the legal front, at least on the near term, there won’t be much change,” said Eric Menkhus, clinical professor of law at the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law at Arizona State University.
Although you have the right to name your team anything, the U.S. government has the right not to protect you if someone uses your name to make money.
“What is sort of out there, I guess, is the extent that the decision will have on public opinion and whether that will put pressure on the NFL,” said Menkhus, who also works with ASU’s new Sports Law and Business Program.
Team owner Daniel Snyder has been very vocal about having no intention to change the team’s name. The Washington Redskins’ attorney released a statement Wednesday saying the “ruling will have no effect at all on the team’s ownership of and right to use the Redskins name and logo.”
Menkhus said it could be like Donald Sterling, where the NBA is stepping in to force him to sell the Los Angeles Clippers.
“It is similar in that if there’s something that’s hurting the brand of the NFL, that the league itself has rights against owners to put pressure to do certain things,” he said.
So what’s the bottom line? Will the name be changed?
“At this point, I think it’s inevitable, yes,” Menkhus said. “I mean, I think Daniel Snyder can fight it, and maybe it will be years down the road, but at this point, I think the tide is turning.”