“We decide, based on the evidence properly before us, that these registrations must be cancelled because they were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered,” the board wrote in its opinion.
Of course, this does not mean the NFL has to stop using the name. But this decision does remove protections. Any street hawker could sell team merchandise without paying licensing fees, which make up a significant revenue stream for the NFL. And now that there’s the threat of lost revenue, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell may finally start paying attention.
Goodell has thus far expressed a startling level of indifference toward the controversy, but if the Redskins lose the trademark — and the NFL’s ability to make money off their licensed and trademarked merchandise — that indifference will assuredly fade. Goodell might “understand the affinity for that name” among fans, but he won’t understand — or tolerate — big financial losses. Ideally, Snyder and Goodell would change the name because it’s plainly derogatory. Getting rid of it because using racist terminology is expensive, though, may have to suffice.
The team will almost certainly appeal and it will take years for the case to be resolved in court. Until the team’s last appeal is exhausted, trademark protections are still in place. But it seems to be only a matter of time before trademark law may succeed where courtesy and common sense have failed.