SBD/June 19, 2014/FranchisesPrint All
The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office's decision yesterday to cancel the Redskins' trademark registration "was the latest indication of mounting disapproval of one of the league’s most established and lucrative brands, and it is likely to amplify a strident debate at the crossroads of politics, sports and money," according to Belson & Wyatt of the N.Y. TIMES. The decision by the Trademark Trial & Appeal Board is "unlikely to have an immediate financial impact while the team appeals the ruling." Even if the decision "is not overturned, the Redskins can use the name and enforce its trademarks using common-law rights." But Native American groups and members of Congress "who have pressured" NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Redskins Owner Daniel Snyder to "abandon the name said the decision was more evidence that the league and the team must change with the times." Redskins trademark attorney Bob Raskopf in a statement "pointed to a similar decision in 1999 that was reversed years later." He said, "We’ve seen this story before. And just like last time, today’s ruling will have no effect at all on the team’s ownership of and right to use the Redskins name and logo." However, Belson & Wyatt write with members of the federal government having "spoken on the issue, the larger battle will be fought in the court of public opinion" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/19). Trademark lawyers said that the decision "largely is inconsequential to the team, even if it loses an appeal." The common-law rights would allow the franchise to "make a case against any individual or organization looking to profit" from the Redskins name (WASHINGTON POST, 6/19). Univ. of Richmond School of Law professor Kristen Osenga: "While this probably is a moral victory for people who don't like the term, it isn't going to keep the team from using the term or even suing other people who are" (WASHINGTON TIMES, 6/19).
T-SHIRT TIME? In L.A., Sam Farmer notes it is unclear how much yesterday's decision "will erode the Redskins' ability to protect their brand." The "true impact might not be known until the franchise files suit against the next person or entity selling unauthorized merchandise" (L.A. TIMES, 6/19). In N.Y., Belson & Corasaniti note because of the "active market in sports merchandise and the flood of counterfeits from overseas," some companies undoubtedly will try to "exploit the team's lack of federal trademark protection." Without federal protection of the name, U.S. Customs & Border Protection "would no longer have to block the import of counterfeit goods, though the Redskins could still sue counterfeiters" (N.Y. TIMES, 6/19). Trademark attorney Howard Hogan said, "I would not take this as a green light to go out there and start printing fake Redskins jerseys and going out and selling them" ("CBS This Morning," 6/19). But Virginia-based copyright law expert Brad Newberg said, "Joe in Peoria is going to have a pretty good argument that he could put the 'Redskins' name on some T-shirt" (AP, 6/18).
IT COMES DOWN TO DOLLARS: ESPN's Jim Trotter said if the Redskins are going to change the name, it is "going to be out of financial concerns, not as a moral issue." Snyder has shown that he "is not going to be bullied by people who are telling him that this is a disparaging name and that it needs to be changed" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 6/18). THE MMQB's Jenny Vrentas noted the trademark board's ruling is "just the first step -- but its greatest impact could be outside the courtroom." DC-based National Congress of American Indians Exec Dir Jacqueline Pata: "I'm thinking about sponsorships now. This is bigger than just a trademark decision. The (sponsors) will be taking note. Do they really want to be associated with the team when there is such groundswell rejecting the name? I think when that happens, that starts hitting at the core, at the financial positioning" (MMQB.SI.com, 6/18). SportsBusiness Journal's Daniel Kaplan said the "only way it really begins to affect the bottom line of the Redskins is if major sponsors stood up or if potential stadium backers stood up and said, 'We won't be involved with this'" ("Nightly News," NBC, 6/18). In Cleveland, Jeff Darcy writes the NFL "always talks about protecting the 'Shield.'" The continuing controversy over the Redskins name and the loss of trademark protections "blows huge holes in that 'Shield' that the NFL can't afford long term" (CLEVELAND.com, 6/19). The S.F. Chronicle's Ann Killion said when the Redskins begin to lose merchandise revenue, then the NFL "is going to step in." Killion: "All the teams will lose money, then the NFL will go, 'Oh, we're losing money. All of sudden we're going to have a moral conscience and we're going to change the name'" ("Yahoo Sports Talk Live," CSN Bay Area, 6/18).
REACHING THE BOILING POINT: In DC, Robert McCartney writes the ruling is "mostly symbolic, for now, but the symbolism packs a sizable wallop." The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office put Snyder and the NFL "on the defensive in the vital arena of public relations" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/19). Trademark lawyer Joel Feldman said the impact of the ruling right now is "more psychological than legal." However, it will "embolden the Native Americans to show that this is an offensive term to them and it will definitely help their PR campaign" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 6/18). USA TODAY's Erik Brady notes controversy "over the term 'Redskins' simmered on a back burner" for years, but the "temperature rose" over in the last 13 months. Yesterday's ruling "appears to put the matter at full boil." Siegel+Gale Group Dir of Naming & Brand Development Christian Turner: "The hits have been piling up, and at what point does that pile get big enough to tip the scales?" (USA TODAY, 6/19). In Newark, Dave D'Alessandro writes if Snyder "loses his appeal, he will recognize the tipping point." His logo will "essentially be devalued beyond recognition" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/19). In Chicago, Karp & Channick write the decision "adds to the straws that may one day break the resolve" of Snyder (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/19).
HOW WILL FANS REACT? In Louisville, Adam Himmelsbach writes, "If -- or when -- the name change finally occurs, there will be initial outrage, but then they will get over it, because we always get over it" (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 6/19). However, Maryland-based Maroon PR President John Maroon, a former spokesperson for the Redskins, said, "The Redskins have a very old and loyal fan base and many of them would be outraged if the name changed. From a business perspective, if they did change the name, they would certainly lose a lot of their existing, long-standing fans and face their wrath but would gain a handful of new fans" (Baltimore SUN, 6/19).
FROM THE EDITORIAL BOARD: A WASHINGTON POST editorial states Snyder would be "smart to take this as an opportunity." He is "kidding himself if he thinks concerns about the continued use of an offensive name can be waved away as easily as a reporter's question." Traditions matter, but "times -- and language -- change." If Snyder "declines to recognize as much, officials and other NFL owners must take action." They, too, are "being harmed by this obdurate last stand" (WASHINGTON POST, 6/19). A Newark STAR-LEDGER editorial states, "Now is the opportunity for the Redskins name to be retired -- along with its close relatives in cities such as Cleveland, Atlanta and Kansas City." If Snyder's "financial protections are struck down, that might be the final straw in convincing him that a tradition rooted in racism isn't worth preserving" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 6/19). A CHICAGO TRIBUNE editorial states Snyder "ought to change the name." That said, what the government did yesterday to "force his hand is troubling." The government, in effect, is "penalizing Snyder for exercising his First Amendment rights" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/19).
The Hornets have unveiled their new uniforms as part of their offseason rebranding effort away from the Bobcats. The team’s new white home and purple road jerseys have teal V-neck collars with a purple stripe. Both jerseys have the word “Hornets” on the front. The team’s alternate uniform is teal with the word “Charlotte” appearing in white with a purple background and will be used for either home or road games. Team officials said the alternate jersey pays homage to the original '88 teal uniforms. Hornets Exec VP and Chief Sales & Marketing Officer Pete Guelli said, “We wanted to incorporate the history around the Hornets and also evolve the jersey into something more fitting 12 years later." The team’s new uniform design was a collaboration between the Hornets, the NBA and Nike’s Jordan Brand division. Guelli said of using Nike to design the uniform, “Because of our owner, we have access to resources that most teams would not. It was the only direction that made sense for this project” (John Lombardo, Staff Writer).
EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN: In Charlotte, Rachel Adams-Heard notes the new Hornets logos have “plenty of fans,” but local retail store managers claim that the original design "may have an edge with shoppers.” Guelli said the team’s merchandise is “performing extremely well” almost five months after the new logos started appearing on team gear. Still, he “acknowledges the vintage design commands plenty of loyalty.” Adams-Heard writes the popularity of the old logo is “partly the retro look of the purple and teal, partly the nationwide craze for vintage athletic gear and partly nostalgia for a beloved team” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 6/19).
FS Midwest was prepared to release a video that countered one from FS Wisconsin promoting Brewers C Jonathan Lucroy for the All-Star Game that "attacks" Cardinals C Yadier Molina, but the Cardinals "requested that they not," according to Langosch & McCalvy of MLB.com. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny yesterday said a rebuttal was "not something I'm interested in." Matheny: "It's an easy no." The Lucroy video takes a "jab" at St. Louis when it states that Lucroy "most importantly" is not a Cardinal. Matheny said, "You have to take it in the nature in which it was meant, and it was meant to be geared toward their fan base. It was just amazing that it was that much directed at our organization. I think that part probably caught me off guard the most." Lucroy did not help develop the video and said that "no harm was intended." Lucroy: "That commercial was meant as a joke, and obviously, that doesn't reflect my personal belief. I don't want people taking it the wrong way." He added, "Everybody got a kick out of it, I guess. It's one of those things that I really wasn't privy to prior to the development of it. I really didn't know it was going to be portrayed like that" (MLB.com, 6/18).
BEHIND THE VIDEO: FS Wisconsin Producer Brad Weimer, who came up with the idea of the Lucroy video and a similar one supporting Brewers CF Carlos Gomez, said, "We try to work with the team on some all-star initiative each year, trying to get the vote out. The team basically said they wanted to do something for Gomez and Lucroy. They are two guys right up there in the votes. I came up with the idea of doing attack ads in a parody style. ... I hadn't seen anybody else do it. So I said, you know what, let's try this out." He added, "It's an interesting concept. Teams can kind of get worried about that kind of thing. The Brewers were great. I think everyone there has a great sense of humor, understood that it was very tongue in cheek" (JSONLINE.com, 6/18). CBS Sports Network's Jim Rome said, "Hit the deck, Cards fans, the Brew Crew is coming in high and tight. Brilliant. No need to reach out to your fans, you already have their vote. Instead, appeal to the legions of Cardinals haters” (“Rome,” CBSSN, 6/18).
USA TODAY's Sam Amick writes NBAers "looking to expand their personal brand" in China are "well aware that the Rockets have had a corner on that market since the days of Yao Ming." The team's appeal in China is one of the "main tenets to their pitch" to free agent targets. Rockets CEO Tad Brown said, "We're basically the de-facto national team of China. ... Every one of our games is broadcast in China and throughout Asia. We deliver a reach that is greater than any other team in the NBA, on a global scale" (USA TODAY, 6/19).
SUDS DUD: In Buffalo, Tom Precious reported the Bills' effort to "start selling beer an hour earlier for Sunday home games has come up short," as the measure "never gained traction" in the New York State Senate. State Sen. Mark Grisanti once backed the Bills' idea, but said that "getting a Wilson stadium-only measure would never work." Instead, there "has been legislation to push back the Sunday alcohol sales to 11 a.m. on a statewide basis." But that, too, has "stalled at the Capitol" (BUFFALO NEWS, 6/18).
BOMBER BLUES: In Winnipeg, Paul Wiecek reports with just a week now remaining until the CFL Winnipeg Blue Bombers open their regular-season schedule at home against the Toronto Argonauts, the club "has sold just 22,500 tickets for its home opener." That is "two-thirds of the 33,500-seat capacity of Investors Group Field." If ticket sales "don't pick up meaningfully in the next week, this year's first game will be the most sparsely attended ever at Investors Group Field." The club as of yesterday morning "had sold just 21,311 season tickets, down more than 3,000 from last year" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 6/19).