The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling today regarding offensive trademarks, and now some supporters of the University of North Dakota’s retired Fighting Sioux nickname are saying it gives them new hope that their beloved logo/nickname might be restored.
They’re wrong. The Supreme Court case really isn’t related at all.
The SCOTUS opinion in question (read it here) dealt with whether a band name, The Slants, could be registered as a federal trademark. The federal government argued that the name was offensive, “slants” being a racial pejorative deployed against Asian Americans.
The band, made up of Asian Americans, argued that a ban on their trademark violates their 1st amendment rights. The Supreme Court agreed.
That’s an important victory, I think, and it does have implications for the sports world. The Obama administration had tried to move against the trademark of the Washington Redskins on the basis that it is racially offensive. This SCOTUS opinion puts an end to that.
But the issue with the Fighting Sioux logo/nickname was never the federal government. There was no beef with the University of North Dakota’s trademark. The issue was the NCAA, a private organization, classifying the logo/nickname as offensive and issuing sanctions against UND unless it’s changed.
The Supreme Court’s opinion about the 1st amendment and trademark registrations really has no bearing on the NCAA’s opinion of whether “Fighting Sioux” is offensive or not.
It’s time for the pro-Fighting Sioux folks to hang it up.