The U.S. Olympic Committee thought it could easily have its way with a bunch of knitters, but, oh, was it wrong.
After its crack legal team served a cease and desist letter this week to knitting social networking site Ravelry.com over the site's "Ravelympics," the USOC was subsequently bombarded with complaints from outraged knitters via Facebook, Twitter and email.
The Ravelympics are Ravelry's member-created biennial competition -- a "knitting Olympics," so to speak -- with events including the "afghan marathon" and "scarf hockey."
But, according to its cease and desist letter (read it in full here), the holier-than-thou USOC felt the name "Ravelympics" qualified as trademark infringement and also "tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games," adding that it was "disrespectful to our country's finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work."
Oof. But this wouldn't be the first time an international Olympic committee has gotten all up in arms over an outside party making its own use of the word "Olympics."
But if the USOC felt the folks on Ravelry were simply elderly, sock-and-scarf-making grandmothers who would simply keel over as it puffed out its chest, it was incredibly mistaken. Insulted by aspects of USOC's proclamation, Ravelry's enthusiastic (and vociferous) base fought back by voicing its outrage online, including on the U.S. Olympic Team's Facebook page.
And it worked. Sort of. While the committee stands by its legal motives, it apologized twice to the Ravelry community for its brash language. Here's part of its original apology:
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. ... [W]e would welcome any handmade items that you would like to create to travel with, and motivate, our team at the 2012 Games.
And yet, even that wasn't enough for some. Here's one response posted to the U.S. Olympic Team's Facebook thereafter:
your apology falls well short of any real acknowledgement of any wrong doing on your part. ... [To] follow it up saying "while you're knitting, send us some of those things we didn't want you knitting in support of us in the first place" is just adding fuel to the fire.
Evidently, knitters aren't to be messed with.