The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday, June 19, that the band can trademark its name, even though some people see it as racially disparaging.
The federal government said in court papers that it should not be required to approve trademarks "containing crude references to women based on parts of their anatomy; the most repellent racial slurs and white-supremacist slogans; and demeaning illustrations of the prophet Mohammed and other religious figures".
"The government defends free speech around the world because it knows when free speech is threatened, religious minorities suffer", said Hannah Smith, senior counsel at Becket, a non-profit religious liberty law firm that says it has teamed with the government in the past to fight laws banning insulting or defaming religious speech.
The Redskins' appeal on that decision was put on hold by a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., until the Supreme Court ruled on the Slants case.
In its 39-page decision announced by Justice Samuel Alito, the court ruled that the intent of the trademark rule was not to "cleanse commercial speech of any expression likely to cause offense".
Indian groups opposing the Redskins said the ruling does not change the fact that the name "is a dictionary-defined racial slur". The four more "liberal" justices, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, would've ended the discussion after finding that the PTO here is engaging in viewpoint discrimination among private speech.
"I am THRILLED", Snyder told the AP.
The ruling will end a two-decade effort by Native American activists to cancel the team's registrations as pressure to change the name.
But when the litigation of the word "redskins" is left to a group like the PTO, the resulting decisions will always say more about that body's own biases than anything else.
The request was denied on the ground that it is disparaging to "persons of Asian descent".
Critics of the law said the trademark office has been wildly inconsistent over the years in deciding what terms are too offensive to warrant trademark protection. New Justice Neil Gorsuch didn't take part in the case because it was argued before he joined the court.
In a filing Monday, the Justice Department defended the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board's decision past year to strip the team of protections.
"A law that can be directed against speech found offensive to some portion of the public can be turned against minority and dissenting views to the detriment of all", writes Kennedy.