E. King Gill can rest easy. FSU has returned his nickname.
In case you didn’t know, Gill was the inspiration for the term “12th Man.” And if you didn’t know, don’t say so out loud around Texas A&M or you’re likely to be sentenced to an Aggie re-education camp.
The term is so sacred that the school had it trademarked. So you knew the legal bullets might start flying if you saw Sunday’s Tallahassee Democrat.
There was an advertisement for FSU football tickets featuring the back of jersey No. 55. Instead of a player’s name across the shoulders, it read “12th Man.”
Them’s suing words in Texas.
“So wats the deal with 12th Man and FSU??” receiver Ricky Seals-Jones tweeted.
The alarm quickly went up the Aggie food chain to Jason Cook, senior associate athletics director.
“Attn: @FSU Football. There is the one and only #12th Man, and it belongs to Texas A&M. #Trademarked.”
By then, there was a full-scale Internet skirmish between Aggies who revere the nickname and Seminoles who don’t quite understand Texas A&M’s clinginess.
“Lots of internet lawyers out today,” Cook tweeted. “Trademarks are not based on the last nat’l champion, or if I’ve been to a team’s stadium.”
He’s right. They’re based on law, and the law says Texas A&M owns the “12th Man.”
It goes back to 1922, when the Aggies were playing No. 1- ranked Centre College in Dallas. They were running out of players due to injuries.Gill had played some football but was a basketball player. He was in the press box helping reporters identify players, and coach Dana X. Bible sent word for him to get to the sideline. Gill suited up and Texas A&M won 22-14.
He never actually got in the game, but a legend was born. Now you’d be better off trying to steal the Alamo than borrowing Gill’s nickname.
But what about the Seattle Seahawks, you ask?
They’ve used “12th Man” for years, and it really went crazy during their Super Bowl run. A Port Angeles, Wash., couple with the last name of Mann even named their baby girl Cydnee Leigh 12th Mann.
Seattle can use “12th Man” because it reached an out-of-court settlement with Texas A&M in 2006. The Seahawks paid the school $100,000 up front and $5,000 annually for five years.
Sounds like a pretty good deal for Seattle. It would probably take 100 times that for Texas A&M to let another college use “12th Man.”
When FSU became aware of the controversy on Sunday, it blamed Jameis Winston for inadvertently stealing E. King Gill’s good nickname.
I’m kidding, but what would an FSU story be these days without a gratuitous cheap shot at Mr. Crab Legs?
The Seminoles indeed misappropriated the phrase, which is a nice way of saying they temporarily stole it. It didn’t occur to anyone in the marketing department to check out trademark infringement possibilities.
Call it an honest but dumb mistake. The newspaper ad couldn’t be changed, but the Internet ad has been changed from “12th Man” to “Our Team.”
An FSU representative also called the Aggies on Monday to apologize and try to smooth things over. Texas A&M is apparently satisfied and has returned to previously scheduled business.
Cydnee Leigh 12th Mann can expect a threatening letter any day now.
David Whitley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @DavidEWhitley.