Oklahoma State takes New Mexico State to court over an old cowboy logo

SMILE WHEN I TAKE YOU TO COURT: Oklahoma State University has enlisted a Tulsa law firm to file suit against New Mexico State over the use of its cowboy logo.

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

Call it “Logo-gate.”

Or heavy-handedness.

Or simply another example of how overly litigious our society has become.

But the fuss over the mascots at Oklahoma State University and New Mexico State University seems to have catalyzed on a pennant selling for $26.98 at the NMSU bookstore.

Earlier this week, a Tulsa law firm representing the Board of Regents for Oklahoma State filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against NMSU, claiming damages stemming from NMSU’s use of an old cowboy logo that NMSU Aggie sports teams used to display.

The lawsuit also calls on NMSU to “deliver up all products, printed materials, signage, and other articles in possession” bearing the logo to be “destroyed.” Plus, NMSU must make an accounting to Oklahoma State of “all profits derived” from the use of the old logo.

“We were surprised that OSU took this step,” NMSU said a statement released Monday, saying school officials are “confident that good sense will prevail.”

Oklahoma State — whose sports teams are nicknamed the Cowboys — has long employed a logo of a craggy and cranky-looking cowpoke armed with a six-shooter nicknamed Pistol Pete.

New Mexico State used to employ a logo that was virtually identical:

DRAW: New Mexico’s old logo, left, faces off with Oklahoma’s logo.

But nine years ago, NMSU changed its logo to a cowboy with a lasso:

NMSU

ON THE RANGE: New Mexico State picked this logo nine years ago.

Aggies fans didn’t like the logo very much so it was altered to have the cowboy armed with a couple of pistols:

NMSU

TAKE AIM: Two pistols are better than one, right?

OK, so what’s the big deal? The updated NMSU logos look nothing like the OK State logo. So why the lawsuit?

Because New Mexico State is apparently using the old logo to sell some merchandise.

OSU spokesman Gary Shutt sent New Mexico Watchdog a photo that was snapped at the NMSU campus Barnes & Noble of some pennants featuring the old logo, accompanied by script reading, “Classic Aggie”:

Photo courtesy of Gary Shutt

A CLASSIC: NMSU revived the old logo for a series of pennants.

Oklahoma State objects to “however (the old logo is) being used in the Classic Aggie collection,” Shutt said.

“Whether that’s on pennants or shirts and things. Clearly, it’s related to the old school Pistol Pete.”

Shutt said he didn’t know when the photo was taken or who took it.

NMSU spokesman Justin Bannister confirmed to New Mexico Watchdog the “Classic Aggie” pennants have been sold at the bookstore and, as of Wednesday, were still on the shelves.

“We’re hoping we can resolve this soon,” Bannister said.

OK, maybe NMSU should get rid of all merchandise featuring the old cowboy logo.

But does this dustup merit the trouble, publicity and expense of filing a lawsuit?

The eight-page legal document submitted Monday accuses NMSU of “causing irreparable injury and damage” to Oklahoma State.

Really? Even in the unlikely event that NMSU has sold 100 Classic Aggie pennants this school year, at $26.98 a pennant that comes to $2,698. One would think that attorneys fees to merely write and file the lawsuit would roughly equal that.

And speaking of attorneys, New Mexico Watchdog confirmed Thursday that lawyers enlisted by the OSU Board of Regents are not from the school’s general counsel but from an outside firm in Tulsa. And the firm is not taking the case on a contingency fee basis. Since Oklahoma State is a state university, that means Oklahoma taxpayers are picking up the tab.

That is, unless, New Mexico taxpayers pick up the legal fees incurred, as the OSU lawsuit is calling for.

Even an Oklahoma state representative has his misgivings.

“If the state of Oklahoma were to spend more money (on the lawsuit) than we received based on the fact that we’ve got that unique logo, it would be a total waste of taxpayer dollars,” state Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, told New Mexico Watchdog on Thursday during a brief telephone interview. “So until we find out how much money we made off of that (merchandise), I don’t know why in the world we would want to stop anyone from using it.”

“I don’t have an answer on how much money this will cost” NMSU in legal fees to defend itself in the legal case, Bannister said.

The story has been picked up by media outlets in New Mexico and Oklahoma as well as a host of national sports websites.

Judging from some of the online comments, Oklahoma State officials are catching some heat and being accused of heavy-handedness.

“Just a large university trying rob a smaller one. who cares that they look alike just play ball & let the mascot fiasco rest,” one commenter on the Yahoo! Sports website posted.

“Hopefully, all of this will get settled fairly soon and this won’t be an issue any longer,” Shutt said. “I think that’s what both Oklahoma State and New Mexico State are hoping.”

Click here to read the lawsuit filed in the western district of Oklahoma.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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