Smack Apparel—the brilliant minds behind this t-shirt and others of its ilk—has decided to say some very dumb stuff to defend an equally dumb shirt about Grayson Allen’s tripping tendencies.
The t-shirt in question features the silhouette of a player wearing Allen’s No. 3, with the text “Yo Grayson... Why you trippin’?” alongside a strike-through over “Duke.” This is dumb not because it makes fun of Allen’s bad behavior—by all means, make fun of Grayson Allen—but because there’s no way you’re getting away with that when the NCAA is and has always been very clear about the fact that commercial entities cannot use the name and image of college athletes for profit. Smack Apparel was hit with a cease-and-desist letter regarding the shirt this week from intellectual property lawyer Susan Freya Olive, who has represented Duke before:
The letter was obtained by TMZ Sports and is available in full here. Contrary to what the above tweet from Smack Apparel might have you think, the letter does not try to argue anything about the first amendment and instead simply notes that Allen “does not permit the use of his name, or any picture of himself, to appear on commercial products sold by an individual or agency.”
This goes along with NCAA Rule 126.96.36.199, which explicitly states that a student-athlete can lose eligibility if anyone uses him to sell something—“If a student-athlete’s name or picture appears on commercial items (e.g., T-shirts, sweatshirts, serving trays, playing cards, posters) or is used to promote a commercial product sold by an individual or agency without the student-athlete’s knowledge or permission, the student-athlete (or the institution acting on behalf of the student-athlete) is required to take steps to stop such an activity in order to retain his or her eligibility.” This is something that any apparel company doing business in college sports should be pretty well-acquainted with. And yet!
Rather than trying to argue that the NCAA’s regulations are grossly unfair to the athletes and should therefore be invalid, or something similar, Smack Apparel president Wayne Curtiss instead tries making an irrelevant argument about satire in his response to the cease-and-desist. He then offers to prove his point by flying to North Carolina in order to survey random people about whether or not they think the shirt is actually sponsored by Allen or Duke, noting that if they say yes, he will ask “if they have mental issues.” The response, also obtained by TMZ, is in full here. He ends the letter with “Yo Susan, you gotta be trippin, right? :)”
Fingers crossed that the reply ends with, “Yo Wayne, get Smacked.”