Round One In A Legal Battle…

Yesterday, a Federal Judge ruled against the Washington Redskins and kept in force a decision by the Patent and Trademarks Office saying that the team name is derogatory and therefore cannot be sanctioned under the Lanham Act. One point the Redskins made in their lawsuit was that the Lanham Act was in opposition to the First Amendment since it was a government action that abridged free expression. Obviously, the judge did not buy into that.

Now, it seems to me that the entire concept of a trademark for any business or any entity is an infringement on free expression. The Redskins have used the trademark granted to them by the government to prevent anyone else from using the team name/logo on anything that might benefit that other user without benefiting the Redskins. So, I think that if the Lanham Act is “unconstitutional”, then so are all trademarks. Somehow, I do not think Danny Boy Snyder would like to buy into that proposition.

I have maintained for about 3 decades now that people who wanted the team name changed needed to stop with the “campaign of moral outrage and indignity” and change the venue to “economics”. That is what this struggle does. Should the Skins ultimately lose, it could cost them a lot of revenue and that is very important because the team owner – the one who swore that he would NEVER change the name – owns this team for two reasons:

    Reason 1: It is an ego trip for him to be one of only 32 people on the planet who owns an NFL team.

    Reason 2: The team makes money hand-over-fist.

If somehow the opponents of the name can undermine “Reason 2”, they stand a much greater chance that Danny Boy will change his mind. Oh, and a boycott – which would achieve the same end – is simply not a feasible option. So, this lawsuit is not a frivolous one.

Obviously, this is not over and the Skins will appeal this decision at least one time and the opening of the trademark is held in abeyance until the legal process is finished. Even if the team loses in the end, the Skins can still retain the name if they wish but the Federal trademark protection is what is in dispute here. For the moment, the team name opponents are in the lead…

Recently, Bob Molinaro had this item in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot regarding the reports that Phil Mickelson had ties to someone who was investigated for money laundering associated with illegal gambling:

“Bottom line: For the good of the sport, if not the reputation of Phil Mickelson, shouldn’t the PGA require some sort of statement from Mickelson about the relationship he and his nearly $3 million in gambling money have with the money launderer under federal investigation? Though Mickelson isn’t being investigated, it’s hard to believe any other major sport would allow something this fishy to foul the air with no comment from the player or officials. At any rate, I wonder how the story would be handled by media if Tiger Woods were involved.”

To respond to the last part of that comment, if this were Tiger Woods, the story would be everywhere and would likely cause CNN to treat it as if it were a missing airliner. However, at least one member of the press tried to get Phil Mickelson to comment on the story. Mickelson is in Scotland to play in the Scottish Open and someone brought up the subject. Here is Mickelson’s response:

“People are going to say things good; they are going to say things bad; they are going to say things true; they are going to say things not true. The fact is, I’m comfortable enough with who I am as a person that I don’t feel like I need to comment on every little report that comes out.”

That statement was probably not crafted by his image consultant/PR guru. That statement is an amalgam of:

    1. A non-denial denial – and –

    2. Buzz off!

However, as Professor Molinaro properly observes there has still been no acknowledgement by the folks who run the game that this report ever appeared anywhere. I would have expected at least the standard ploy of:

    “We are looking into this matter but cannot comment on it because there is an ongoing investigation and we have to say this because we do not have the faintest idea what is going on and our fervent wish is that it would dry up and blow away.”

Sometimes, I just like to look over the MLB standings to see if anything jumps out of the numbers. When I looked yesterday, I saw that the Oakland A’s are in last place in the AL West and that the A’s had the worst record in the AL. Of course with the Moneyball geniuses in charge there, I would never have thought that possible. But it is even worse than that…

The A’s have outscored their opponents by 50 runs this year. According to advanced stats, that should put them well over .500. In fact, the Royals have outscored their opponents by 56 runs this year and the Royals are 12.5 games better than the A’s this season. How does this happen?

    It cannot be “clubhouse chemistry” because Moneyball does not admit such a thing exists.

    It cannot be “market inefficiency” because Moneyball identifies such inefficiency and exploits it.

As of yesterday, the A’s were 7-21 in games decided by 1 run. That might explain the record and the unusual run differential total but to look at that 7-21 record, one would likely conclude that the A’s were “gagging”. But that is not allowed because there is no sabermetric stat for it – yet.

Finally, here is some insightful analysis from Greg Cote in the Miami Herald:

“ESPN ‘Body’ issue: It’s out in the magazine and online, ESPN’s annual gratuitous platform allowing naturally narcissistic athletes to be even more narcissistic by showing us that their wonderful athleticism is a tribute to their even more wonderful bodies.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………

4 thoughts on “Round One In A Legal Battle…”

  1. As a ridiculous, statistical predictor (the only kind we like), name the only first-place team in major league baseball to have less than a .500 record in one-run games.

  2. The Phil Mickelson gambling story has no legs as long as 1) it was legal to place the bets and 2) he never bet against himself. Since I have never bet on golf (except when I was playing) I do not know all the different things on which people place golf bets. I am sure there is more to it than I know. But, Mickelson is a prominent enough person that someone would have broken this earlier if he were doing something sleazy.

    My question is, how does a “sports betting handicapper” differ from a bookie? And, if the bookie took Phil’s money and placed some hedging bets without Phil’s knowledge (or something else illegal), how does that implicate Phil? That is, as long as Phil placing bets with the bookie was legal?

  3. Phil might also be getting some leeway after the splash they made about him being investigated for insider trading… and being cleared rather more quietly. They even approached him ON THE COURSE AT A TOURNAMENT instead of going thru his lawyer or agent… and it turned out if a buddy says something about another buddy making a move on a company he is not an official of isn’t insider trading.. there is no insider…

    1. Ed:

      Indeed, the fact that his name was associated with insider trading in the past – even though he was cleared of anything shady in the matter – has goosed up the interest in this story. Nevertheless, the investigative instincts of the golf writers are moribund at best here. They could use investigative journalism to advance the story either to clear Mickelson’s name or to implicate him further. They seem to be doing neither…

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