Following your recent encounter with the 2+ million knitters on Ravelry and elsewhere, I imagine that you might be feeling a bit like Greg Louganis after he hit his head in the 1988 Summer Olympics diving prelims. Greg miscalculated the distance to the end of the diving board and I still remember the pain and anxiety I felt for him following his accident. Ultimately he sprang back to bring home the gold medal for the US Olympic team. The Olympics can be full of such inspirational moments.
In the cease and desist letter your legal clerk sent to Ravelry, I believe you were within your right to assert the US Olympic Committee’s trademark rights on various patterns containing the name “Olympic” or the 5 interconnected circles in their patterns. Going after the name “Ravelympics” in my opinion might have been a stretch (it wasn’t “Ravelry Olympics” or “Knitting Olympics”), unless you intend to go after every US commercial enterprise that mashes up the word “olympic” (small “o”) with something else. Not being a lawyer has its downside when trying to respond to such things, but I do try to do my homework.
Frankly, at that point your legal clerk should have stopped. Instead he continued,
“We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work,”
Oh dear. This was a miscalculated communication, along with the equally miscalculated apologies you sent. Perhaps you should have run these communications by a public relations/media specialist, or at least an Olympic athlete who knits, first, because if there’s one thing you should have realized is that knitters/crafters are passionate about their chosen craft, as passionate as athletes are about the Olympics. And the truth is non-knitters don’t get that and it really upsets a lot of knitters, to put it mildly.
Stephanie McPhee, The Yarn Harlot, wrote a wonderful reply to knitters about this olympic-sized dust-up, and she closes her piece saying (paraphrasing) that, after all, we’re millions of knitters and Olympic athletes are only a few. Of course, before there can be a few Olympic athletes, there are hundreds of athletes worldwide who endlessly train, with dedication and determination, in the hope of one day being good enough to qualify for the Olympic Games. Certainly training for the Olympics is a different and far more intense experience than knitting, but knitting (or any skill) that demands proficiency can take years to master, demanding equal dedication and determination.
We knitters also have our own Olympians, people like Stephanie McPhee, who we look to, to inspire us to perform better than we do now.
While I won’t boycott the Olympic Games this summer, I, like many other US and expat US knitters, will watch the US Olympic team march into the stadium in London, holding high the hand-stitched flag you had commissioned, and will shake my head wondering how the USOC could have gotten its public relations so wrong.
Best of luck at the Games.
P.S. for any knitters who might be reading this: Keep Calm & Knit On!
(hat tip: The Wifely Person Speaks)