NFL to Pittsburgh NORML: Cease and Desist.

MarijuanaThe hypocycloid itself is a symbol that cannot be trademarked.

What is a hypocycloid, you may ask? It’s the star-like symbol incorporated in the logo used by the Pittsburgh Steelers- three hypocycloids with the word “Steelers” in a white circle.

In our quest to find a logo for Pittsburgh NORML, we chose a similar design which replaces the hypocycloids with marijuana leaves.

norml-logoThe NFL recently caught wind of our design and sent us a classic cease and desist order.

Now, I will concede that the NFL has an economic interest in protecting its “brand”. Their objection is premised on the belief that it’s consumers would confuse our two marks. In other words, the NFL believes our use of the hypocycloid will cause National Football League consumers to believe that we were affiliated with the league. How stupid do they think NFL fans are?

It would be nice if we were actually affiliated with a sport where chronic pain is commonplace and many of it’s own employees use marijuana to alleviate that pain. Some of them even use it for recreation.

Last year, we saw a Steelers running back get arrested for using marijuana. Le’Veon Bell was caught driving (with another player) and was high at the time. He got a DUI and faced disciplinary action from the league. Bell is still on the team, and just this past Monday had a stellar game running the ball against the San Diego Chargers. I guess it’s safe to say the wacky weed doesn’t have much of a negative impact on his performance.

Seriously, though, as far as making a fight against the League for our logo goes, we’re throwing in the proverbial terrible towel, but I want to use it as a teaching moment. In my response, I offer the following statement:

“We honestly believed that our use of the hypocycloid was a “fair use” and therefore permissible under intellectual property law. However, we have no interest in going toe to toe with the Almighty National Football League. We hope, however that the league will listen to it’s own players, who are demanding access to a non-toxic and wholly natural pain management alternative. We still considered our logo a fair use, falling under the parody clause. Certainly no one would confuse marijuana leaves as being the true logo of the Steelers. However, we are a small, local non profit – not a multi-billion dollar non profit like the NFL. We would rather work on legalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania than battle the all powerful NFL in court over a parody image.”

To be fair, the league would do the same thing if we were operating a hot dog cart, so their position is not about marijuana use.

Our logo position is not untenable, but we are choosing to focus our efforts and limited resources on what we feel is the important issue at stake here, and we’re making progress. In fact, the league has moved (slowly to be sure) towards our stance at NORML: Marijuana is medicine. This article in The Atlantic talks about the league taking a somewhat more enlightened approach to the issue.

Players like former Pitt star and Dallas Cowboys lineman Mark Stepnoski, who sits on NORML’s board of directors, and Marvin Washington, who spent 11 seasons in the NFL and now represents players as a financial adviser, agree that marijuana is medicine, and they are lobbying the league to take a more realistic, compassionate and enlightened approach to the issue.

Read about Marvin Washington here.

Why are these players coming forward in increasing numbers? Consider the case of NY Giants player Tyler Sash, from a story in Bleacher Report, whose use of opiate like drugs like methadone and hydrocodone to treat his chronic pain led to his untimely death at age 27.

We applaud these and other brave players who have publicly supported Marijuana as medicine, and encourage other players to ‘come out of the closet’ regarding marijuana use in the league.

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