A&M steps up fight over promotion of '12th Man'
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M sought a restraining order Monday against the Seattle Seahawks, asking the NFC champions to stop promoting the "12th Man" marketing campaign.
The school filed the request in district court in Brazos County, arguing that the Seahawks are infringing on A&M's legal claim to the "12th Man" slogan. The school claims it created the moniker more than 80 years ago and owns the rights to use it.
"Texas A&M University certainly has no ill will towards the Seattle Seahawks," said Steve Moore, A&M's chief marketing officer and vice president for communications. "However, we have the responsibility and legal obligation to protect the university's trademarks, which in this instance is the '12th Man.' "
The Seahawks, who play Pittsburgh in Sunday's Super Bowl, have recognized their followers as a "12th Man" since the mid-1980s, when capacity crowds turned the now-demolished Kingdome into one of the NFL's loudest venues. The team retired the No. 12 in 1984.
Now, the team plays at Qwest Field and its playoff run has rekindled the "12th Man" symbol and brought it into the national spotlight. A banner with the number 12 on it hung from the team's hotel in Dearborn, Mich., on Monday. A No. 12 flag now waves atop the city's signature Space Needle and the slogan, in some form, appears on team merchandise, including jerseys and computer desktop wallpaper.
In Olympia, Wash., Gov. Chris Gregoire hoisted a "12th Man" flag at the state Capitol on Monday, and proclaimed this coming weekend as "Seattle Seahawks Super Weekend." A Gregoire spokeswoman did not immediately return a call for comment Monday night on the Texas A&M action.
At A&M, meanwhile, "The 12th Man" is a symbol of fan support that dates to 1922. It began when a student, E. King Gill, was pulled from the stands to suit up for the injury-depleted Aggies as they faced top-ranked Centre College. Gill never got in the game, but the Aggies won 22-14.
The tradition has evolved into a campus-wide commitment to support the football team. Students stand for entire games at Kyle Field and at times, they join arms and sway in unison, causing the stadium to literally shake. The words "Home of the 12th Man" are emblazoned in maroon across the concrete facade splitting the upper and lower decks.
" 'The 12th Man' is one of our most treasured traditions, recognized by most as one of the most compelling in collegiate athletics," Moore said.
The school sent letters to the Seahawks in 2004 and 2005, asking the team to stop its use of the "12th Man" slogan, Moore said, but the team never responded.
"Therefore, we have no other recourse but to take formal legal action," he said.
The Seahawks declined to comment.
A&M has twice registered trademarks for "The 12th Man" label -- in 1990 and 1996 -- that include entertainment services, "namely organizing and conducting intercollegiate sporting events," and products, such as caps, T-shirts, novelty buttons and jewelry.
"Texas A&M has done everything in its power to bring closure to this situation," Moore said. "Our hope is that the Seahawk organization will recognize our federal trademark and bring closure to this situation."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press