The professional football team, the Washington Redskins, is suing the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office saying that when the agency cancelled the team’s “Redskins” trademark, they violated the team’s free speech rights. Mark Joseph Stern, Slate, February 25, 2015, writes that even though the name is racist, under current rules, withdrawing approval for it constitutes “coercion of speech.”
The government says that there is no violation of free speech just a denial of federal trademark to the name. The team’s lawyers argue that the government is inconsistent in allowing the “Braves” and not the “Redskins.” “The team says the First Amendment can be violated by government restrictions that burden speech even if they don’t ban it outright. The team argues that canceling a trademark represents such a burden, especially for a football club that has used the name since 1933,” writes Matthew Barakat of the Associated Press in The Huffington Post, February 27, 2015.