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Thursday, June 21, 2012

The USOC Strikes Back

The USOC apologized today, something it rarely does.  It apologized to all who they have insulted by their letter to Ravelry.com.  (See previous post for details.)  Sorces indicate there have been tens of thousands of messages conveyed by social and conventional media to the USOC in response to the offensive language since the letter was released yesterday.

The phrasing in the cease and desist statement that offended the knitting, spinning, and crochet community called Ravelry.com was the one that was insulting on its merits.  This is the most offensive part:  "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."  All  of the rest of the letter is tainted by being in the company of this ugliness, though most of the rest of it is pretty tame.

Today the USOC released this statement:

Statement from USOC Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer Patrick Sandusky:
“Thanks to all of you who have posted, tweeted, emailed and called regarding the letter sent to the organizers of the Ravelympics.

Like you, we are extremely passionate about what we do. And, as you may know, the United States Olympic Committee is a non-profit entity, and our Olympic team receives no government funding. We are totally dependent on our sponsors, who pay for the right to associate with the Olympic Movement, as well as our generous donors to bring Team USA to the Games.

The letter sent to the organizers of the Ravelympics was a standard-form cease and desist letter that explained why we need to protect our trademarks in legal terms. Rest assured, as an organization that has many passionate knitters, we never intended to make this a personal attack on the knitting community or to suggest that knitters are not supportive of Team USA.

We apologize for any insult and appreciate your support. We embrace hand-crafted American goods as we currently have the Annin Flagmakers of New Jersey stitching a custom-made American flag to accompany our team to the Olympic Games in London. To show our support of the Ravelry community, we would welcome any handmade items that you would like to create to travel with, and motivate, our team at the 2012 Games.”

First off, Ravelry.com did not found the Ravelympics, they are merely the outlet by which it is conducted, much like the Internet did not invent my blog.  Second, I find it unlikely that the letter sent to the founders of Ravelry was, in fact, a "standard-form cease and desist" letter.  The very specific insults would imply that it is, in fact, not a form letter.  That their apology to the needlework community contains this phrasing implies there is some tush-covering under way.  While I appreciate Mr. Sandusky's sentiment, I wish he had familiarized himself with the text of the original letter before speaking.

I am willing to concede that the ugly language in the original letter may have belonged to only one person, the writer, or a small group, a committee, and may not represent the official views of the USOC.  However, once the official letter was out in the world, I believe the only appropriate options were to disavow the statement as being made without authority, or apologize for it.  This does neither.  It's an "I'm sorry, but". 

Mr. Sandusky, we're sorry, too.  Not for anything we've done, but because our support and enthusiasm for the Olympic movement has been so grossly misunderstood as to be considered a viable threat to trademark and sponsorship.  It remains a mystery how knitting in front of our televisions will negetively effect donations and sponsorship, but we wish the athletes no loss of revenue.  We're sorry that no one took the time to understand what the Ravelympics are before dashing off this silly letter.  None of the Ravelympic events charge money, or raise money, and much of the resulting work product is donated to charity.  And somehow, I don't think the USOC would mind being associated with that.

1 comment:

Elisabeth Marino said...

This just in from the USOC on FaceBook: As a follow-up to our previous statement on this subject, we would again like to apologize to the members of the Ravelry community. While we stand by our obligation to protect the marks and terms associated with the Olympic and Paralympic Movements in the United States, we sincerely regret the use of insensitive terms in relation to the actions of a group that was clearly not intending to denigrate or disrespect the Olympic Movement. We hope you’ll accept this apology and continue to support the Olympic Games.