As some of you are aware, yesterday Brian Davis reported that a Texas-focused blogger trademarked Charlie Strong's recruiting catchphrase "Let's Ride" and is using it to sell bracelets, T-shirts, and other clothing. Jason Higdon of Horns Digest filed the trademark applications in 2015, but both the university and most Longhorns fans were unaware until recently. Reactions online were swift and overwhelmingly negative. Here's a sampling:
Oh my god the professional shadiness is so official https://t.co/OiLaFfXdaU— The Solid Verbal (@SolidVerbal) May 9, 2016
I couldn't give a flip about recruiting ethics. I do care about what's left of journalism. https://t.co/CXo7FABuHz— Mike Finger (@mikefinger) May 9, 2016
Trademarking a catchphrase isn't problematic in and of itself, it's who did it that's the issue for many of us. Jason Higdon makes his living writing about Texas recruiting, talking to Texas recruits, and his livelihood is based on access to insider information about the Texas Longhorns. With the trademarks & apparel sales he's now financially invested in the success or failure of the program, which is ethically dubious at best and invites a whole host of potential issues for himself and the university. Say UT decides to start paying him for the right to use that catchphrase, does the NCAA now view him interacting with recruits as an extension of the university? How many recruiting violations could be tied to his short-sighted cash grab by Higdon? Did he think of any of this when he started filing paperwork? Does he even care? Public comments by people in the industry would seem to suggest he's just about getting that paper:
Higdon, man. So glad he's not lord over Louisville recruiting news now. https://t.co/xCqtaZlKUv— Mark Ennis (@MarkEnnis) May 9, 2016
What goes around, comes around. #LetsRide— Justin Wells (@justinwells2424) May 9, 2016
Higdon, who is declining interview requests all over the place, offered up this explanation on Horns Digest:
"I understand everyone has an opinion. I want to promote commitment back in team sports.
"Regardless the team, I am in talks with high school football programs in the southeast, little league baseball teams etc," Higdon continued. "Doesn’t matter if its 13 year olds, 18 year olds or 25 year olds, and regardless of the team they all must have a certain level of commitment. The ‘LetsRide Initiative,’ which means commitment to yourself, to your teammates and your coaching staff is something I came up with. It just kind of evolved into what it is today."
This is at best a myopic view of what he's done and at worst a Daniel Figurelli-level piece of horseshit spin, either way it doesn't pass the smell test. If he doesn't want to be honest & upfront about what he's done & why, that's his prerogative, but it doesn't come without consequences. As noted above, Horns Digest is dealing with some serious backlash from Texas fans.
But hey, free market, right? Sure, it's a free market, and as I mentioned already Higdon has every right to try this idea out. The beauty of the free market is that just as Higdon can trademark a catchphrase, we can choose to support or combat his idea. This is why I've purchased www.JasonHigdon.com. It's online right now with a handful of Wordpress entries, and I intend to use it for creative purposes going forward. I own this domain for the next 2 years, and I will do with it as I see fit. Maybe I'll keep posting tweets of people bagging on Higdon, maybe I'll redirect it to sites dedicated to furry porn, maybe I'll hand it to Liucci & TexAgs. It's mine, I can do whatever I want with it.
Jason, if you're reading this - and I'm sure you will be very soon - you have a choice to make. You can keep dealing with the fallout from your decision in the hopes your bracelets will pay the rent & you can try to keep getting insider access to a program that probably loathes you. Or you can release the trademarks to me - which I will transfer to the University and/or Charlie Strong for free - and I'll hand the domain over to you. You can release the trademarks directly to UT, if it makes you feel better. I won't make a dime off this transfer, I won't even ask you to cover my domain registration costs. You can ponder which route is the better long-term decision, and if you're up to it you can unblock me on Twitter and message me there; we can deal with the particulars over DM. It's your call; if you'll excuse me, I have some Google SEO work to do.
UPDATE: Higdon has now updated his stance saying he won't 'push' his trademarked gear.