Skip to main content
The Curious Case of "The Slants"
Social Education (2017)
  • Steven D. Schwinn, John Marshall Law School
It isn’t every day that we see the Supreme Court take on a case that sits at the intersection of trademark law and the First Amendment. But that intersection has been getting more and more attention in the last few years, largely as a result of increased protests
over the use of offensive or demeaning names by popular sports teams. Perhaps the
most famous dispute involves the National Football League’s Washington Redskins,
a name that many say is an affront to Native Americans. The Redskins’s use of that
name, and the protection of the exclusive use of the name through U.S. trademark
law, not only means that the team has a unique identifier, protected by federal law,
that tells all who see it that “The Redskins” refers to the NFL team in Washington,
D.C., it also means that the team can license the use of the name and capitalize on
merchandising worth millions of dollars.

But if the name is offensive, should
the U.S. government extend protection
of it through a trademark? That’s
the question now before the Supreme
Court, in a case brought not by the
billion-dollar NFL franchise, but by a
singer named Simon Tam.
Publication Date
Citation Information
Steven D. Schwinn. "The Curious Case of "The Slants"" Social Education Vol. 81 Iss. 2 (2017) p. 74
Available at: