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Common sense absent in Redskins name debate

by Greg Belfrage

The Washington Redskins' naming debate has once again taken center stage.

The U.S. Patent Office last week canceled six Redskins trademarks, saying they disparage Native Americans.

No one has been well-served by the resulting firestorm of controversy. Native Americans have probably been harmed most of all. The government's over-reach last week has only inflamed anger and bitterness toward Native Americans.

Let's cut to the chase.

It is generally accepted that the N-word is a racial slur. Perhaps that's why it is so baffling to me that we are unable to come to the same consensus about the term "redskin".

Redskins is a racist slur.There's simply no credible way to suggest otherwise.

The best evidence may be that many,like me, never use the word except in discussion about the Washington football team. Nor would I ever refer to a Native American by that name under any circumstances. It's just not part of my vocabulary due to its offensive and derogatory meaning.

Yet I am amazed at the lengths to which people will go to defend it.

There are a lot of inaccuracies floating around as to the origin of the Washington Redskins name, including stories about Boston and red-skinned beans. In addition to being factually incorrect, that isn't a red-skinned bean on the side of Washington's helmets.

There are also those asserting that the origins of the name were benign.

However, the negative connotations that have been associated with the name over time are indisputable. The name is, in my view, simply indefensible.

However, the actions of the federal government patent office are also indefensible. It is not the federal government's role to gauge trademark protections based on subjective and politically motivated criteria.

Despite the offensive nature of the Redskins name, you would be hard pressed to make the case that any Native Americans have actually been harmed by it. There's absolutely no evidence that the team has displayed racism or tried to disparage American Indians.

The patent office should be speech neutral when deciding whether brands deserve trademark protection. Instead, they over-stepped their regulatory authority and turned a social debate into a political one.

Sadly, their decision was inevitable in this age of political correctness and roaming internet lynch mobs.

I watched the recent firestorm over comments by L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling with trepidation. Sterling's comments were incredibly racist. However, the public ridicule that brought him down reminded me of the McCarthy era.

Donald Sterling was wrong. However, that didn't justify the public overreaction to his comments.

Americans took up their pitchforks and descended on social media in droves to demand Sterling's head on a plate. A gutless and politically correct NBA folded like a cheap suit. The entire episode was an embarrassment to all of us.

It seems to me that we have collectively lost the ability to find a path of common sense. We resort to polarized extremes on nearly issue.

The Redskins name is a slur. I personally believe it should be changed.

However, that decision should be made by owners, players, officials and fans of the Washington Redskins.

Not by politically correct, elitist bureaucrats at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

One of my listeners is viewing the issue with a lot of clarity. He posted the following comment on the Greg Belfrage Show page at Facebook:

"I'm a Native American and a listener to this show and the rest of the conservative lineup of talkers. I don't have a problem with the actual logo. The name "Redskin", I do somewhat. My problem is more with the discussion being used as a license to say hateful comments towards Native people. Keep the name, lose the racism attached with defending it."

Amen, my friend.

Greg Belfrage @belfrageshow is heard 6am-9am on KELO 1320 AM and 107.9 FM. Greg can be contacted at greg.belfrage@mwcradio.com.