According to Forbes, the well-publicized legal battle over the emblem for the NFL’s Washington Redskins has been put on hold. Recently, a federal appeals court delayed the case involving the legality of the team’s trademarked mascot and its controversial “Redskins” name. After unsuccessfully petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case, the professional football team’s counsel asked a Fourth Circuit Court to postpone a hearing scheduled for December 9th. They argued that that SCOTUS is soon to release a decision in Lee v. Tam, a case that could have a direct impact on the case against the Redskins. The issue in Lee v. Tam involves the “disparagement provision of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1052(a), which provides that no trademark shall be refused registration on account of its nature unless, inter alia, it ‘[c]onsists of . . . matter which may disparage . . . persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute’ is facially invalid under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.” The team’s counsel noted that it would be “inefficient and wasteful” to have oral arguments in the Fourth Circuit at this time and the Justice Department, representing the Patent and Trademark Office and the five Native-Americans challenging the team’s trademarks, did not oppose the postponement request. The Redskins have raised five major issues in the Fourth Circuit and if in the Tam case SCOTUS were to rule the disparagement law constitutional, only two of those issues raised will likely proceed.
Nick Aquart is a Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2019).