Friday, September 13, 2013

Advertisers Will End Washington's Awful NFL Team Name

Oh, Bother
Keith Olbermann's open tonight was all about Roger Goodell's more than subtle backpedal on DC radio today. If you missed it, the commish's previously rock-solid support for Herr Snyder is now all kinds of lukewarm and nuanced. Olbermann then made the telling point that this change in tone, along with an estimated $200 million in possible merch sales payday from a team name change will give the All-Daniel 200 million reasons to finally see the light. A green light, but a light nonetheless.

Now, Olbermann was all over this and smoked it, but several points were missed.

1) The reason why there isn't outrage in Washington political circles about the name is that the American Indian, from a pure power standpoint, might be the least effective lobby in the history of, well, lobbying. No one in power knows, or cares to know, people on the rez; this is a minority group that has centuries of history that tells them that Getting The Hell Away From You People isn't a path to prosperity, but it's the least bad option. The only reason that there hasn't been a total genocide is that our population densities are relatively light, and the Natives always had the good graces not to go full insurgent.

2) Of course new merch would sell, but please keep in mind that it's not as if Mensa members are going to be picking the new name. For all we know, Snyder might say the team is now called the Thetans, Xenus or Six Flags, or double-down on the offensiveness and come up with something even worse. (One call to Comedy Central's annual roast writers, and he'll have a few dozen options.) This isn't going to be like Brooklyn rebranding the Nets into something that every hipster and rap fan needed to have. Washington sells merch despite its ownership, not because of it.

3) It's not as if $200 million is a new number here, folks. Snyder could have made that money for years now. It's also not as if the franchise is adverse to making money from such things; Washington has the same Throw Up And Throw Back (seriously, has any team ever looked better in one of those?) fetish that everyone else in the NFL has seemingly succumbed to. The reason why you do that is to sell more swag; there is no other reason for it.

So if the money isn't new, the name isn't a given to be better, and no one with Real Power is giving Snyder grief over his Commitment To Racism, what's the real reason why Goodell is caving? Well, part of it is that he may have actually believed Snyder's ridiculous red-washing PR stunt of finding some Alaskan loser to say the name isn't a problem, but NFL owners have made the Ginger Hammer look bad before without suffering His Wrath. Rather, what I think is the Real Story here is that the true power in the NFL -- the advertising companies that pony up ever-escalating and progressively more absurd amounts for TV time, and are probably the biggest reason why New York is getting the inevitable Cold Disaster Super Bowl in five months -- are starting to feel the heat over this anachronism. If Washington gets to the playoffs (no guarantee, especially if Green Bay does them this week and starts them 0-2), or even makes a deep run, some group is going to start storming the castle at companies that respond more than Snyder, and make Racism By Association stick. (It's the same thing that's slowly taking down right wing talk radio, actually.) And if you are paying monster money to be on that telecast, only to suck down a few nasty PR stories and a blacklisting because you're supporting That Name...

Well, there are ways to motivate an NFL owner that go beyond money. Say, draft picks for a trumped-up Bounty Gate allegation? Or a sudden escalation of fines and suspensions for uniform violations? Perhaps a blown call or two, weaker referee crew, flex game away from the prime-time exposure, docking of draft picks for an inadequate number of staples in the program, and so on, and so on.

Yousa gotta mighty nice franchise here, Mistah Snyder. It'd be a shame iffa something a happen to it.

But not as big of a shame as the actual name of the team...


Dirty Davey said...

The obvious solution is to follow through with the topic of some recent lawsuits--the rule that defamatory names cannot be awarded trademark protection.

All you need is one manufacturer who decides to put out a vast array of unlicensed team merchandise for the Washingtons, and who's willing to go to court to challenge the trademark. I can guarantee you that if the name is deemed non-trademarkable and any manufacturer is free to use it, the NFL Properties people will be paying a very quick visit to Mr. Snyder and arranging a re-name.

DMtShooter said...

That assumes there is a market, and resellers, willing to carry the merch, but sure, one more lever is one more lever.

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