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Desperate Washington NFL Team Has 'Few Viable Options' to Keep R-Word Slur, Halbritter Says

Washington NFL team files special petition to have trademark case heard alongside The Slants' trademark appeal.

The Washington NFL team’s legal counsel have devised yet another bizarre plan to overturn the team’s trademark cancellation in July.

On Monday, April 25, the team’s legal counsel, Lisa S. Blatt of Arnold and Porter and Robert L. Raskopf of Quinn Emanuel, filed a special petition with the Supreme Court for their case to be heard alongside a similar trademark appeal – that of the all Asian-American rock band The Slants.

All Asian-American rock band The Slants are also petitioning for the approval of the trademark of their band name. Courtesy

The Supreme Court has not yet agreed to hear the case.

Both The Slants’ and the Washington NFL team’s trademarks were denied and canceled based upon the disparagement clause of the 1946 Lanham Act, which prohibits the registration of any trademark that “may disparage … persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.”

In December, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal circuit in Washington took the side of Simon Tam, the front man for The Slants, and ruled against the Lanham Act provision based on First Amendment violations.

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“The First Amendment forbids government regulators to deny registration because they find the speech likely to offend others, ” said Judge Kimberly Moore.

Two weeks ago, the Patent and Trademark Office asked the Supreme Court to review the case, based upon the question of “disparagement provision … is facially invalid under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.”

Enter the Washington NFL team.

The team wants their case to be heard alongside The Slants’ case, based upon the question of whether the disparagement clause violates the First Amendment, whether the clause itself is unconstitutional based upon the First and Fifth Amendments and if “government’s decades-long delay between registering a trademark and cancelling the registration under [the] disparagement clause violates due process.”

The Washington team also argued, according to the Wall Street Journal, that the “inconsistency and arbitrariness of government restrictions on disparaging or offensive trademarks” is

“Desperate times call for desperate measures, and the Washington team is trying to jump through legal loopholes while a growing number of Americans, and even our federal courts, are demanding an end to the demeaning R-word slur,” said Change the Mascot leader and Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter in a press release on April 26. “Given this reality, the team has been left with few viable options given their unwillingness to simply accept that slur needs to go.”

The Washington NFL team’s trademark appeal is still sitting before the Fourth Circuit Federal Appeals Court in Richmond, Virginia. In the petition, the team asks “that the Supreme Court not consider the issue of that provision’s possible unconstitutionality until after their appeal […] is heard,” according to the Washington Post