The Washington Redskins have been on the defensive much of the year over the team's racial slur of a name.
Prominent sportswriters have stopped using the name in their stories; politicians have threatened to force the team to change it; and even President Obama waded into the debate, saying he would consider going with a less eyebrow-raising moniker were he the team's owner.
So sirens immediately went off Friday morning when TMZ reported "evidence" that Redskins owner Dan Snyder "might be caving to pressure to change the name." Said evidence: His neighbor, a well-to-do patent investor, Aris Mardirossian, applied this month for a patent on the name "Washington Bravehearts."
The purpose of the patent, according to documents obtained by TMZ, was for "entertainment in the nature of football games."
Within hours, the Redskins had thrown cold water on the report:
Statement from the #Redskins on the TMZ Bravehearts trademark report: "There is no connection between the Redskins and this trademark."
— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) October 25, 2013
The denial, though disappointing, shouldn't have come as much of a surprise.
Snyder has staunchly defended the team's name in the past, telling USA Today in May, "We'll never change the name."
"It's that simple. NEVER — you can use caps."
He doubled down on that stance this month, writing in a letter to all Redskins season ticket holders that the name was a "symbol of everything we stand for: Strength, courage, pride, and respect — the same values we know guide Native Americans and which are embedded throughout their rich history as the original Americans."
"We are Redskins Nation," he concluded, "and we owe it to our fans and coaches and players, past and present, to preserve that heritage."
Not exactly a sign he wants to change his team's name, and risk losing the lucrative marketing value associated with it; Washington is the third-most valuable franchise in the NFL, according to Forbes.
Lanny Davis, the high-powered crisis management consultant Snyder recently brought on board, has also defended the team's name, saying that Snyder was "honoring the word Redskins" and that there was nothing "disparaging intended."
It's possible Mardirossian wanted to snatch up the name because: 1) He thought it sounded really cool; and 2) He could try to pass it on at a profit to Snyder should the Redskins ever pursue a name change.
It's not uncommon to squat on team names solely in case they might be worth something. The NBA filed six patent applications when the Oklahoma City Thunder relocated from Seattle and needed a rebrand. (Barons, Bison, Energy, Marshalls, and Wind — WIND! — all lost out to Thunder in the end.)
Bravehearts would have been a lame twist on Redskins, but at least it would have shed all the icky racism. Then again, a Mel Gibson mascot would probably have offended plenty of people, too.
So Washington will, for the foreseeable future, continue to be the second-most racist sports franchise in pro American sports — right behind the Cleveland Indians and Chief Wahoo.