Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Right to Be Unpopular

Among certain circles, Daniel Snyder is not popular.  Okay among most circles outside of his players, Daniel Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, is not popular.  Although Redskins players, even in retirement, have respect and affection for "Mr. Snyder" this does not extend to reporters, fans, or almost anyone else.

That image contributed to today's ruling by the US Patent and Trademark Office to strip the Redskins of much of their brand trademark protection.  The team and the NFL will no longer have exclusive rights to the word. Whatever one may think of the Redskins, Daniel Snyder, or their name, this bodes ill.

From a business perspective, the team should logically change its name to "Warriors."  The Warrior Road connecting the Iroquois to their Catawba and Cherokee enemies followed US 1 and Interstate 95.  The name makes sense.  But businesses should be able to rely on the law being enforced fairly, regardless of public opinion.

In this case, the Redskins were victimized by a politicized agency.

A business has the right to be unpopular, to fly against public opinion, to try and weather the storms of fashion.  Snyder's team joins other teams with names originally derogatory, like Fighting Irish, Tar Heels, and, yes, Mountaineers.  They deserve honest regulatory decisions, not ones based on someone's feelings being hurt.

Finally, Snyder himself lies at the root of this.  Any player that fumbles as much as his public relations team should be cut.  Snyder himself cuts a haughty figure that does not garner much sympathy. This landmark free speech case is only one of many failings. This bumbling attempt to placate Indians was another. Had Dan Snyder the abilities of a Jack Kent Cooke, or if his teams won, the politicos would not have come after the blood in the water.

The ruling here has much greater implication.  Any brand that offends anyone, anytime, is now at risk.  That is the danger here, the threat of totalitarianism in branding.

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