(picture via thebiglead.fantasysportsven.netdna-cdn.com)
I find it difficult for to imagine that any of the WVU Board of Governors could themselves have attended the school. If they did, it must have been so long ago that they’ve forgotten the mentality of the average student at our infamous party school.
In an effort to protect their trademarked brand, the WVUBoG has filed a lawsuit against the Morgantown t-shirt maker who’s producing the "West F***in’ Virginia" t-shirts (among other racy titles). Read here for the details. In the suit, the BoG contends that this t-shirt maker’s actions could inflict "irreparable harm" to WVU’s goodwill and reputation.
The t-shirt maker isn’t using officially licensed logos or phrases. He’s parodying many common student culture and WVU themes, he’s selling shirts that are colored Old Gold and Blue, and he’s using a font that is common to university apparel-wear across the country. But because seeing one of these t-shirts on national television embarrassed the WVUBoG, they’ve decided to put a stop to this "criminal" mischief!
Let me be clear. I won’t let my three high school students walk out my front door with profanity on their t-shirts. And I never had to explain to my sons when they were little boys at Mountaineer Field what "West F***in’ Virginia" meant. Although, I’m pretty certain the "PUCK FITT" t-shirt is the reason for my daughter’s dyslexia. I should sue.
I find the shirts in question as offensive as a t-shirt can be. But for me, that isn’t very offensive. I grew up in a house where my dad swore like a sailor and laughed when I punctuated jokes with an "F-bomb." I’m probably not a good gauge for when it’s time to get offended. I quit cussing because I had my own kids and my wife didn’t want them to grow up shocking their teachers as I did (my Spanish teacher kicked me out of class because I sprinkled my dialog with words like "Puta," "Mierda" and "Cerveza" – believe me, I was worse in English).
A lawyer friend of mine says that WVU (and other universities) jealously protect their brand (he passed along this ESPN story about copyright law). However, he also thinks WVU may be overreaching here to try to keep independent t-shirt makers from using the name West Virginia, profanity, and Old Gold and Blue on the same t-shirt.
Can you imagine the far-reaching effects of the WVUBoG being able to eliminate people from satirizing the school while using its colors and state name? Is it possible that unofficial fan sites like "The Smoking Musket" could get shut down if WVU finds what we’re saying offensive? All they have to do is make the case that it is doing irreparable harm to their goodwill and reputation (and that there is some old gold and blue involved, no less), and we’re potentially out of business.
Oliver Luck made the best effort to date to stem the tide of this reckless profanity. He used his considerable cultural capital to tell students they were idiots for wearing these t-shirts and that they weren’t helping WVU make forward "PR" progress with the rest of the country. The result? A proliferation of "WEST LUCKIN’ VIRGINIA" t-shirts, and more than likely an uptick in other raunchy t-shirt sales.
Some even feared that our profane t-shirts would make other conferences think twice about inviting us. Why? Because we all know that those schools never use profanity! "Texas F***in’ Christian." "Southern F***in’ Methodist." That does look odd, doesn’t it?
Trademark and constitutional issues aside, as I read the details of the lawsuit, I wondered if any of the WVUBoG members had ever raised teenagers. The surefire way to get a rebellious brat to take it to the next level is to act like an overbearing parent and pick at them. If the BoG was looking to stop this type of t-shirt production, they may have just made things worse. And in the process they may have turned this "smut-peddler" into the Larry Flynt of university apparel-wear.
If the WVUBoG wins this case, I can just see the next t-shirt coming off the line...
*Note: "BoG Brother is Watching!" is the copyrighted expression of Mountaineer Chuck and The Smoking Musket. Any use without the expressed written consent of TSM is strictly prohibited. And we'll sue your ass!