The Olympic Committee just messed with the wrong old ladies

Normally when you see the word “Olympics” around Hot Gas these days, you expect to see the word “Dressage” following in close order. Not so today. The US Olympic Committee has established a long and well-deserved reputation for jealously guarding their name, symbols and copyright perimeters and aggressively going after anyone they perceive as trying to make a buck off their corporate brand. In fact, the Wall St. Journal ran a lengthy piece during the last summer Olympics which details the various scofflaws they have shut down, including, but not limited to:

  • The Ferret Olympics (now called the Ferret Agility Trials)
  • The Nose Olympics (now the Nose Aerobics)
  • The Rat Olympics (Xtreme Rat Challenge)
  • Olympets (National Pet Games)

But now the USOC may have taken on a battle which they may come to regret. They’ve thrown down the legal gauntlet in front of Ravelry. Now, in case you’ve never heard of Ravelry – and if, like many of us, you spend all your time focused on government and politics, you probably haven’t – you may be wondering what it is. It’s an online social network for people interested in … wait for it .. knitting, sewing and other related crafts.

Lest you think this is some backwater story with no place here, Ravelry isn’t some collection of a half dozen old grannies in their parlors. They are one of the top ten largest social networks, boasting more than two million registered members and daily traffic which regularly matches – or sometimes vastly exceeds – that of Hot Air. And while you don’t normally expect a group of knitters to take up pitchforks and torches and go occupy something or throw tea bags in the Potomac, now they’re ticked off.

If you mess with the Olympics trademark, a cloud of legal hurt will descend on you faster than Tyson Gay in the Men’s 100 meters. Case in point: The U.S. Olympic Committee has sent a cease and desist letter to a knitting-based social network for hosting a knitting “olympics.” Now, knitters are in revolt.

2012 was to be the third year that the knitting social network Ravelry—yes, this exists and is surprisingly popular—hosted a “Ravelympics,” a knitting competition for users that includes events like an “afghan marathon,” and “scarf hockey.” Knitters were supposed to compete in their events while watching the actual Games on TV.

But that was before the U.S. Olympics Committee got wind of it and sent Ravelry a cease & desist, for making a mockery of the Games with their needlework.

That article covers some of the basic facts, but gets quite a few more wrong. It seems nobody at Ravelry was making money off the Olympic brand, nor were they “mocking” the games. They were encouraging their members to watch the games and knit at the same time, challenging themselves to exceed their personal best for the most projects finished while the games went on.

They also make another ironic statement toward the end.

The USOC is demanding Ravelry change the name to the “Ravelry Games,” but we say: Why not make knitting an Olympic sport instead? Pair up knitting a baby sweater with target shooting and make it the summer version of the biathlon. Those would be some Nike ads.

Why is that ironic? Because knitting actually was an Olympic event at one time.

Be that as it may, Ravelry is largely – though not entirely – composed of ladies… ladies who habitually carry sharp pointy things. And now they’re angry. So who is conducting the war on women now?

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