It's going to be at least another several months before Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel can capitalize financially off of his nickname "Johnny Football," and if he and his family have their way it will be much longer before anybody else can.
As reported back in November, on the heels of a 29-24 upset of then top-ranked and eventual national champion Alabama, Manziel and his family planned to trademark the "Johnny Football" moniker, essentially calling dibs now and in the future on anything branded with the catchy nickname.
Well, a few months later, it appears that the "Johnny Football trademark" web has caught its first fly (courtesy of ESPN.com):
Manziel's corporation, JMAN2 Enterprises, filed a lawsuit in Texas last week against Eric Vaughan, a man who was selling T-shirts that read, "Keep Calm and Johnny Football." Manziel claims Vaughan infringed on his trademark rights.
Although Manziel didn't file papers to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for "Johnny Football" until Feb. 2, a trademark doesn't have to be federally registered for there to be an ownership claim.
The lawsuit asks the court to award damages for the unlawful sale of the "Johnny Football" T-shirts. Texas A&M's compliance office recently received a ruling from the NCAA that a student-athlete can keep financial earnings as a result of a legal action.
Here are a few of my thoughts on this development:
1. I need to know right now, not tomorrow, not next week, right NOW if JMAN2 Enterprises is hiring. Don't get me wrong, I like my current employer, but can you think of a better place to work than a company run by Johnny Manziel?
I imagine the corporate headquarters of JMAN2 Enterprises as some hybrid of the penthouse floor of Trump Plaza, the Playboy mansion, and Willy Wonka's chocolate factory (only the chocolate river is actually vodka and the candy treats are all cigars, Porterhouse steaks, and boobs). I imagine the annual meeting taking place in Vegas every year and being 51 weeks long, and the only reason we would spend one week NOT in Vegas is to sue the ever-loving shit out of anyone trying to infringe on our "Johnny Football" copyright. Emergency meetings would take place at a blackjack table, and the board of directors would be the five finalists of the Miss America pageant. In short, JMAN2 Enterprises would replace Disney World as the happiest place on earth. 2. I thought it was interesting, that last sentence that a student-athlete can keep financial earnings "as a result of a legal action." With the NCAA as haphazardly vigilant as they've been in the last couple years (notwithstanding how bumbling they've been in executing said vigilance), I can't wait for the first school that concocts a phony lawsuit as a means of paying a student-athlete.
"So here's what we are gonna do, Robert. We set up a shell company called Nkemdiche Worldwide LLC, and we trademark the nickname 'The NKEMDEECHINATOR.' And then we will have a planted student that we bankroll start selling NKEMDEECHINATOR t-shirts, thousands of them, then we will have Nkemdiche Worldwide sue the pants off of him and force him to pay you damages. Bada boom, bada bing! YOU get paid! Now, sign here, Robert!" Don't think there aren't rogue boosters trying to figure out how they can work this loophole to their advantage.
3. Lastly, and most importantly, you will have plenty of Johnny Manziel skeptics, people who roll their eyes at his Instagram account and who scoff at his taking his entire semester's worth of courses online, disdainfully saying that this is yet another example of Manziel's edgy road to remaining eligible and focused for the 2013 season, that it's another hint at his eventual ruin. They will say that the great quarterbacks of our time are much busier honing their craft than protecting their trademarked nickname.
To them I say "Stand down," and to Johnny Manziel I say "Good for you, kid."
When a high school athlete commits to playing their sport collegiately by signing a national letter of intent, they are signing the most detrimentally one-sided contract that they will ever ink in their entire career, in athletics or in business. All power resides with and all profit goes to the NCAA and the member institution for whom they choose to go play.
Texas A&M football is big business all of a sudden. In one year, the Aggies have gone from underachieving little brother of the University of Texas and a middling Big 12 school to a reedy-to-erupt SEC powerhouse and a cool place for high school football players to go spend the next three, four, or five years of their lives.
There are several reasons for this phenomenon. The move to the SEC has worked out better than anyone could have imagined. The Kevin Sumlin hire was and is a home run on every conceivable level. His first season, highlighted by the aforementioned upset of Alabama, has put the Aggies squarely in the national title talk for 2013.
And then there's Johnny Football.
In 2012, Manziel rendered chunks of the SEC record book obsolete, accounting for over 5,000 yards in total offense as a redshirt freshman, including over 1,400 yards rushing. His star rose to cult hero status, Joe Namath with a Twitter account. In addition to the intrinsic, immeasurable financial value Manziel brought to the A&M brand, the A&M merchandising department capitalized by ordering and promptly selling out of thousands and thousands of Johnny Manziel #2 jerseys.
For all of those sales, Johnny Manziel saw exactly zero dollars and zero cents of that merchandise related revenue stream.
So forgive me for not begrudging a kid and his family for taking a pragmatic, legal approach to maximizing the earnings off of his name. And save the "He should be focused on football, not garbage like this" rhetoric. If Manziel has shown the ability to do anything, it's compartmentalize. The dude spent the entire month of December on the banquet circuit, courtside at NBA games, and tweeting pictures of himself backstage in Hollywood.
And he promptly went out on January 4 and destroyed Oklahoma by four touchdowns in the Cotton Bowl with over 500 yards of total offense.
Johnny Manziel is protecting his name and his brand. Good for him.
Now if he could just find a way to control some of the idiots who wear this stuff....
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
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