When Washington president Bruce Allen said “we’re fine” in response to the news that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has canceled the team’s legal protection against knock-offs and other infringers, he may or may not have been thinking about 1999.
Fifteen years ago, the same ruling was issued by the same body, seven years after a challenge to the name was filed. A higher tribunal ultimately scuttled the conclusion, based on the legal doctrine of “standing,” which relates to one’s ability to file legal claims.
This time around, the plaintiffs believe they’ll prevail on that point. Even if they do, the appeal could overturn the ruling on other grounds. So it’s all still very preliminary.
Besides, if Allen was able to declare victory in response to the Harry Reid hashtag debacle, saying “we’re fine” with a straight face now should be an easy sell.
This difference this time comes from the surrounding debate on the name. In 1999, the opposition was far less organized and mainstream. In 2014, the opposition has coalesced and assumed a sense that it will last until the name inevitably changes.
The name will change once the opposition finds a tipping point that compels Commissioner Roger Goodell to gather a few key owners and persuade Snyder that it’s time to flash the victory sign and get on the helicopter. While today’s ruling may not be the tipping point, it could very well spark it, possibly through the decision of major sponsors to begin ending their relationship with the team or the league.