A T-shirt company released a new design poking fun at Duke basketball star Grayson Allen, but not everyone is laughing.
On Monday, the law firm Olive & Olive sent a cease and desist letter to the Smack Apparel Company demanding it immediately stop selling the shirt, which features a silhouette of Allen alongside the words, “Yo Grayson … Why you trippin’?”
Allen or Duke or another entity retained Olive & Olive, however, in an attmept to shed that reputation.
“As you are aware,” states the letter, which was obtained by TMZ, “Mr. Allen is a skilled and well-known athlete.”
The letter goes on to state, “Mr. Allen has not consented, and does not consent, to such use; nor has he authorized any agent or other person to grant consent to you for such use. …
“While we do not believe that your use of his name and image is likely to have been innocent, we place you on express notice that use by you of Mr. Allen’s image and/or name for commercial purposes, including use on or to promote commercial products, is forbidden.”
Smack Apparel owner Wayne Curtiss isn’t ready to back down.
— Smack Apparel (@SmackApparel) March 31, 2017
In his response letter sent on Friday and also obtained by TMZ, Curtiss said his design was protected under the First Amendment because it counts as “critical commentary and satire.”
“In my opinion, no one would believe our shirt to be sponsored or endorsed by Grayson Allen but rather it is humorous and clearly making fun of him,” he wrote, before offering to settle the matter in an altogether ridiculous manner:
” … [W]e both know this type of potential consumer confusion could easily be answered by an opinion poll. So here’s my offer, I will fly to the Durham/Chapel Hill area and we will poll 50 people who say they are college basketball fans. We will ask this question, ‘Do you believe this shirt is sponsored or endorsed by either Duke University or Grayson Allen?’ If more than five people say yes, besides asking them if they have mental issues, we will cease all production and sales and pay a 25 percent royalty for all sales.”
Curtiss then said if less than five people answer the question affirmatively, he would expect Olive & Olive to give him $2,000 for his time and travel expenses.
Finally, Curtiss signed off from his letter with, “Yo Susan, you gotta be trippin, right?” He added a smiley-face emoji, as well.
It seems likely Olive & Olive will continue its legal fight, regardless of a 50-person poll.
As Deadspin points out, under NCAA Rule 184.108.40.206, these matters can be serious for student-athletes, as even when a commercial entity uses a player’s image without consent, it can threaten his eligibility.
In that regard, the NCAA requires that the student-athlete or university for which he plays “take steps to stop such an activity.”
As of Saturday evening, the shirt in question remained on sale via Smack Apparel’s website for $19.99.