UND Deserves Parody And Mockery Over Ridiculous Nickname Fight

An enterprising University of North Dakota alumnus is poking fun at his alma mater’s nickname fight with t-shirts showing the now-banned “Fighting Sioux” logo, except this time with a tongue sticking out of the Native American warrior’s mouth.

He’s selling merchandise with the altered logo on it at his website NewSioux.com.

Not surprisingly, the UND administrators are asking the guy to “cease and desist.”

“We’re starting a dialogue which basically says they need to cease and desist what they’re doing, but we’re trying to have a conversation,” Johnson said.

UND owns the trademark to the Fighting Sioux logo, which was designed by American Indian artist and sculptor Bennett Brien. The nickname and logo were controversially retired in late 2012 after the NCAA threatened sanctions.

“Certainly we understand people have rights, freedom of expression rights,” Johnson said. “We understand as an institution and we champion that, but at the same time there are legal protections that come into play, so we’re looking to protect our image. That’s why we want to have this conversation.”

I spoke with Brien this morning and, though he no longer maintains any rights to the logo he created, he was ambivalent about the parody.

The parody aspect of the New Sioux merchandise can be hard to see.

The parody aspect of the New Sioux merchandise can be hard to see.

“A guy can’t get too upset about it,” he told me. “You could look at it a bunch of different ways. You can be pissed about it, you could laugh at it, I don’t know man. One guy I seen yesterday said I should get pissed about it, but I don’t know. Depends on how you want to look at it.”

The thing is, there are legal protections for parody and satirical works of art which are derivative from other works. Wikipedia has a succinct review of the issue, but it seems to me (an admitted legal layman) that the legality of the New Sioux merchandise lays entirely in whether or not the logo is sufficiently transformative in nation. That is, has the creator of the merchandise changed the Fighting Sioux logo enough that it’s clearly parody?

As you can see in the image to the right, taken from the NewSioux.com website, the parody aspect of the logo (the tongue sticking out) can be hard to see.

Which means that this parody may not be transformative enough to pass muster with the courts. But there’s an easy fix. Just transform the logo more.

I suspect there’s going to be a large on-going market for Fighting Sioux merchandise now that the school has cracked down on the logo (and is pushing a forced march towards a new nickname/logo most people are bound to hate). And given how farcical this nickname fight has been to date, I suspect there’s going to be a lot of interest in merchandise mocking it.

Because there are few things more worthy of mocking and parody than the ridiculous fight over this logo/nickname.

For what it’s worth, you can still find Fighting Sioux merchandise online at retailers like Amazon, if you’re interested.

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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