US Olympic Committee, Ya Dun Messed Up Good

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As I’m writing this, the USOC has apparently issued an apology, but I went to bed last night extremely irritated, and I woke up this morning fuming, so I figured I would at least try to articulate my thoughts on the matter (to add to the many, many other posts about this topic) to try to help me just get it out of me and hopefully move on!

Yesterday, the US Olympic Committee’s general counsel sent a letter to Ravelry pertaining to their 2012 Ravelympics (essentially, knitters and crocheters would watch the Olympics and participate in knitting sweaters, afghans, or scarves and the like. ALL SOUNDS LIKE A LOT OF FUN, NOW, DOESN’T IT?!) demanding that they change the name of the activity from Ravelympics to something more like Ravelry Games, which did not use the copyrighted phrase “Olympics.”

Okay, fine, completely and totally 100% understandable (if they want to play hardball like that, anyway…I think it’s kind of silly that they’re wasting their energy this way, BUT WHATEVER.). All of us – makers, crafters, knitters, crocheters, etc, etc, etc – understand copyright and intellectual property. I can’t count the number of tweets and posts I’ve seen about people’s patterns and designs being ripped off (Urban Outfitters, other Etsy users, and so on) and we’re VERY sensitive to such things. No one wants to screw over another designer, no one wants to step on each others toes, we all try to exist in peaceful and creative environment (at least the good ones do…there are other less nice folks out there). All the USOC had to do was ASK NICELY and I’m sure Ravelry would have been more than happy to acquiesce.

BUT NO.

They had to go about it this way:

[…]The athletes of Team USA have usually spent the better part of their entire lives training for the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games and represent their country in a sport that means everything to them.  For many, the Olympics represent the pinnacle of their sporting career.  Over more than a century, the Olympic Games have brought athletes around the world together to compete in an event that has come to mean much more than just a competition between the world’s best athletes.  The Olympic Games represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony.

The USOC is responsible for preserving the Olympic Movement and its ideals within the United States.  Part of that responsibility is to ensure that Olympic trademarks, imagery and terminology are protected and given the appropriate respect.  We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games.  In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.[…] (click here to read the letter in full, free Ravelry account required.)

WHAT. THE. WHAT. I CAN’T EVEN. DENIGRATE?! Really? That’s what we’re doing? Pretty sure we were having fun and trying to get into the spirit of awesome world-wide camaraderie that happens every 2 years via the good sportsmanship and love and respect that is inherent in the Olympics. Yes, I have all the respect in the world for athletes and the fact that they love what they do enough to devote their entire life to it, giving up a lot of things that we take for granted. Does that mean that I can’t empathize and understand because I like to make things instead of play basketball or swim? NO. I’ve been crocheting since I was 6, and knitting since I was 14, and I’ve been working on perfecting my craft since then. I love to sew and make jewelry, decoupage and collage, stamp and cross-stitch. I’ve put LOTS AND LOTS of energy into this, because I love it and I want to be the best at it. I also used to be really into sports. I did gymnastics, soft ball, dance, and basketball. And as soon as I hit high school, everything became a competition, and you had to be the best, and losing was not an option; that’s a really lousy way to live. So I gave up on it. Could have I been a great athlete? Maybe, and maybe not, but I didn’t have the heart to put everything aside and become single-minded in my pursuit of sports. Some people DO have it in them, and it’s a joy to watch. THAT’S WHAT THE OLYMPICS ARE ABOUT. Other people have it in them to kick ass and take names making afghans, sweaters, and scarves AND THAT’S OKAY TOO.

Let’s revisit something, shall we? “The Olympic Games represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony.” Dear USOC, YOU. FAILED. That’s right, I said it. Ravelry is currently a community of over 2 million fiber artists WORLD-WIDE. DID YOU HEAR THAT, LET ME SAY IT AGAIN IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: WORLD. WIDE. And you know what? Knitting and crocheting fun things while people support their own countries is BEYOND SPORT AND ENCOMPASSES CULTURE. And you’ve insulted WELL OVER 2 million people here, guys – that’s just the number of people on Ravelry. But this is the internet. Things spread like wildfire. There are people that still make things from yarn BECAUSE THAT’S THE ONLY WAY THEY’RE GOING TO HAVE A SWEATER OR A PAIR OF SOCKS. How can you be this ignorant and hurtful while exalting your athletes? They’re still people at the end of the day, and so are we. We’re ALL Americans (or Canadians, or Estonians, or Ghanians, OR HUMAN BEINGS.)

You were being ridiculous. You were being hurtful. It’s probably going to be a long time before I’m ok with watching the games again. Way to go and pit the jocks against the artsy kids AGAIN. Because there’s just not enough bullying going around these days.

(c) 2012 Elsha Wolf. All rights reserved.
Duplication in whole or substantial portion is explicitly forbidden.

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