ACLU Defends Redskins' Free Speech Rights, Says Government Shouldn't Intervene

FILE - In this June 17, 2014, file photo, Washington Redskins helmets sit on the field during an NFL football minicamp in Ash
FILE - In this June 17, 2014, file photo, Washington Redskins helmets sit on the field during an NFL football minicamp in Ashburn, Va. The U.S. Patent Office ruled Wednesday, June 18, 2014, that the Washington Redskins nickname is "disparaging of Native Americans" and that the team's federal trademarks for the name must be canceled. The ruling comes after a campaign to change the name has gained momentum over the past year. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

While the group remains a harsh critic of the Redskins name, the ACLU on Friday condemned the government's involvement on the issue.

"The Washington Redskins is a name that is offensive and perpetuates racism against Native Americans. Should it be changed? Yes. But should the government get to make that call?" and ACLU blog post read.

The group says no, adding that the First Amendment protects Washington from interfering in free and private speech. The ACLU noted that it agrees with the ruling last June by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that deemed the team's name disparaging and thus, ineligible for trademark registration and protection. The case now includes the Department of Justice, which announced January it is stepping into the case. However, the ACLU argues that the government has gone too far adding that its role isn't to "pick and choose which viewpoints are acceptable and which are not."

"Even when the speech in question reflects viewpoints we all agree are repellent," the government needs to stay out, the blog, written by ACLU staff attorney Esha Bhandari read.

The team quickly filed an appeal to the PTO's decision to strip its six federally registered trademarks in June and is currently in the middle of a legal battle in Virginia courts with the Native American group that leveled the suit against the NFL franchise.

The ACLU said it filed an amicus brief this week, arguing that is is an issue of free speech, but distanced itself from the team.

"Our brief is on behalf of the First Amendment, not the Redskins," the blog, titled 'You’re Not Wrong, You're Just an A**hole,' it read. "But why should the government get to play language police?"

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