For the impossibly scrutable print platform of Washington City Paper, I wrote this week about Dan Snyder’s pinching the good name of Robert F. Kennedy.
OK, just the guy’s good initials. But still. Snyder named the new party deck at FedExField the “RFK Standing Stomping Club” but never asked permission from the Kennedys or RFK Stadium’s owners. Pick up a copy, read the column, pray for a bumper crop of dirty Craigslistesque personals to return to our pages, commit a random act.
Snyder is a trademark obsessive. He won’t let anybody use the marks he owns, and he loves trying to claim ownership of all sorts of words and phrases to make money off them. When he first bought the Redskins in 1999, he immediately began banning the use of the team’s name in any marketing scheme, publication title, or TV news segment unless he got paid for that use. That’s his right. As pointed out in the piece, during his disastrous run atop the board of directors at Six Flags, he tried to register the phrase “You Are Here” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
“You Are Here”? Really? Really!
(He’s also been on the verge of losing federal trademark protections for “Redskins” for years because of its racist undertones. And overtones. And whole tones.)
So it’s rather impossible to think Snyder would go ahead and put “RFK” on FedEx’s new standing-room-only section, where tickets run a ridiculous $152.50 plus tens of dollars in, um, convenience fees per, without considering that those letters weren’t his to play with.
But maybe, in the end, Snyder’s within his rights: Since Robert Kennedy is a historical figure and not an entertainer, the legal waters run muddy when it comes to infringement. Had Snyder called the SRO area the Dead Kennedys Standing Stomping Club, he’d’ve been sued and would’ve lost.
But, legal or not, “RFK” wasn’t the best choice. Forget that the Kennedys are pissed about Bobby’s initials going on the Standing Stomping Grounds. Given that the new sections are supposed to be all about Hooters girls and budget unconsciousness, shouldn’t Snyder have named the place after Teddy Kennedy?