Troll T-Shirt Triggers Legal Fight, Because NCAA Exploitation

Second verse, same as the first

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Apr 03, 2017 at 1:08 PM ET

A t-shirt company called Smack Apparel has been profiting off the unpaid labor of Duke University guard Grayson Allen and the school is not particularly pleased. As first reported by TMZ Sports, Duke sent the company a cease-and-desist letter, telling them in no uncertain terms to stop selling a shirt showing a silhouetted player in a number three jersey with “Duke” crossed out. The shirt asks the rhetorical, pun-tastic question,  “Yo Grayson… Why You Trippin’?”

“Mr. Allen has not consented, and does not consent, to such use; nor has he authorized any agent or other person to grant consent to you for such use,” the letter states, reminding them that, ”the use of Grayson Allen’s image on or to promote commercial production is forbidden.”

In response, the company’s owner, Wayne Curtiss, trolled Duke. From his perspective, he and his company can mock Allen because of the First Amendment. Allen is a public figure, Curtiss contends, and he therefore should be subject to what Curtiss calls “critical commentary and satire,” a point he concludes by asking Duke’s lead attorney, “Yo Susan, you gotta be trippin, right?😊 ”

As a counteroffer, Curtiss volunteered to go to North Carolina and harangue 50 college basketball fans to ask if they believed Duke had endorsed his product. “If more than five people say yes, besides asking them if they have mental issues, we will cease all production and sales and pay a 25% royalty on all sales,” he writes. Should he prove victorious in this stunt that will never take place, Curtiss asks for two grand from Duke to cover his oh-so-valuable time and the money he would spend on airfare.

To be clear, Curtiss does not care for Grayson Allen’s rights at all, above tweet notwithstanding, and the argument he offers in his response is ludicrous. NCAA rules strictly bar anyone other than the school from cranking up a silkscreen and raking in billions, a system that was codified when the Supreme Court refused to hear the Ed O’Bannon antitrust case. Curtiss knows this all-to-well, having lost a lawsuit to a consortium of NCAA schools over the use of official colors. He, Smack Apparel, and any anyone else are free to express their personal loathing of Duke and/or Allen in whatever manner they see fit; Curtiss just can’t make a few bucks off of it.

Regardless, trolling is Smack Apparel’s business model. It’s spelled out pretty clearly in its mission statement, which outlines how Curtiss, a devoted Florida State University alum—because of course—found himself having some angry feels about Steve Spurrier and saw “a way to capitalize on this hatred.”

Back in 2012, they printed a t-shirt in Penn State’s school colors with a Soviet hammer and sickle replacing the “C” in NCAA for Penn State fans who were still so enraged at the NCAA’s post-Sandusky punishment they equated NCAA President Mark Emmert with Stalin. JoePa Truthers could also buy a different Smack Apparel shirt bearing the words, “Coach, I Got Your Back.”

Both these fine items were available for purchase in the Penn State student bookstore, though neither was officially endorsed by Penn State nor sold in the school bookstore. They’ve since been discontinued, because there’s always another fire sports take that need to be plastered on a shirt. By the time Allen has moved on to the pros, his exploits at Duke will be more or less shunted into the background and these shirts will merit little more than a raised eyebrow when spotted at the local Salvation Army, and Curtiss is not going to go to court to defend the relatively meager profits the Allen shirt generates.

The point here is to get people to blog about it and maybe ring up a few more sales while the Allen-loathing irons are still hot. You’re welcome, Wayne.

Meanwhile, college sports merchandise sales continue to mount, earning $4.6 billion per year as of 2014, Duke consistently ranks as one of the highest revenue-generating men’s basketball programs, and the NCAA gets richer by the second, not a penny of which will go into Allen’s pockets.

Do not buy this shirt, no matter how much Allen looks like and probably plays basketball like a young Ted Cruz.