Friday, June 20, 2014

Being Offended By Mascots Is More Important than Peoples' Rights, Right?

The Washington Redskins mascot controversy has been around for some time, but it received recent coverage with the federal government revoking the team's trademark protection. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, another bureaucratic entity which could merit my kvetching, the team mascot is too disparaging to allow under trademark law.

Too disparaging? Really? Last time I checked the Constitution, there was no right to not be offended. Take a look a free speech protections in this country and you'll find many things that are both offensive and protected by secular law. As long as it doesn't violate the nonaggression axiom, businesses should have the economic right to run their business as they see fit, even if it offends certain people.

Although using the term "redskin" isn't being made illegal as of yet, I worry what public policy looks like when the government bans something simply because people are offended. For one, who has standing? When you make laws because they violate an individual's sense of right and wrong, it's a guarantee that someone else's rights are being violated in the process. Even if the government is the appropriate arbitrator (and that's an exceptionally large, questionable "if" that I personally don't think even exists here), it shouldn't stop there. Let's force some other teams to change their mascots, and I'm not even counting other Native American mascots such as the Cleveland Indians, Atlanta Braves, or Chicago Blackhawks. How about the Fighting Irish? I'm pretty sure not all Irish people are leprechauns wearing little hats with a four-leaf clover in it. Let's also go after the Minnesota Vikings, as well. How dare they portray Scandinavians as brutish drunkards with long, blond hair?

It's not like a team can't change its mascot; it has happened before. Much like we have with African-Americans and other disenfranchised minorities, we should have social tact, and we should evolve in a people that does not use tawdry stereotypes to make overgeneralized statements about an entire group of people. However, I don't want the government arbitrarily determining what is offensive and what is not. If offensiveness is a punishable crime, then I don't like the direction in which this country is heading, and that's regardless of whether I agree with the ruling. Even if the ruling is mere symbolism and the government isn't actually going to enforce the law by rummaging around distribution centers that might have Redskins™merchandise, the government has no place telling people whether the term "redskin" is acceptable because it erodes property rights. What is accepted in "polite society" should be determined by society over time based on societal norms, even if that progression evolves slower than some might like. If you don't like the Redskins mascot, it's really simple: don't buy their merchandise, don't go to their football games, and shun anyone who supports the team, but please, don't give the government the precedent to legalize what is offensive and what is not. It won't end well.

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