The cancellation of the six REDSKINS trademark registrations is not so much a victory for American Indians, as it is a defeat for commercial speech, which means a defeat for the First Amendment.
According to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”), 30% of American Indians consider REDSKINS a disparaging and offensive term. Even assuming that is so — and the flimsy record in the case does not inspire confidence — the decision should alarm Americans of every category. For the logic of the TTAB’s ruling gives any minority faction — regardless of the merit of their position — the power to deprive others of the important governmental benefit of trademark registration, which is a form of constitutionally protected commercial speech.
Many commentators have viewed the case as a contest over respect for Native Americans. But the TTAB ruling transcends the trademarks in question. One does not have to agree that a word with obvious racial overtones like “redskins” is an appropriate choice for a football team, to appreciate the chilling effects of the ruling.
The root of the danger does not lie with the 2-1 majority decision to cancel. It lies with the law they applied. Continue reading
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a liberal. He espouses strong left-wing positions on gun control, abortion, immigration, and climate change. He proposed banning the sale of many sweetened beverages over 16 ounces. He endorsed Obama in 2008.
Last week, Bloomberg traveled to Harvard University, the bastion of American liberalism, and delivered a stinging criticism of liberals.
After the obligatory attempts at joking up the student audience (“I’m excited to be … in the exact spot where Oprah stood last year. OMG.” “Don’t you just hate it when alumni put their names all over everything? I was thinking about that this morning as I walked into the Bloomberg Center.”), Bloomberg turned to the subject of freedom of speech. He began with exaltations of separation between church and state, and references to the McCarthy Scare of the 50s, familiar tropes in any liberal address. “Repressing free expression is a natural human weakness,” he told the students and faculty, “and it is up to us to fight it at every turn.” Bloomberg did not say whom he included in “us,” but most attendees probably thought they knew. Surely “us” referred to liberals – the enlightened ones who have been campaigning against dead Senator McCarthy for 65 years.
But the Mayor threw them a curve ball. Continue reading