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Keith Olbermann Blasts Texas A&M for Trademark Threats

The ESPN2 anchor knocked the school for threatening to sue a sympathetic figure. But there's a reason for, and a possible solution to, the legal battle

Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Keith Olbermann was a -- let's go with divisive -- figure during his time on MSNBC, but his move back to ESPN2 with "Olbermann" has generally been a good thing for sports fans. Olbermann makes sports highlights entertaining, has an encyclopedic knowledge of sports history (and baseball history in particular) and isn't afraid to speak his mind. That last part led to an epic rant against Texas A&M last night.

Let's set the stage first. A&M has a trademark on the phrase "12th Man," thus the sign at their stadium saying that it is "HOME OF THE 12TH MAN." Here's the part of a story from FOX Sports Southwest that caught the attention of Olbermann and some other people:

The Aggies filed two complaints against four Bills fans for using the trademark in their website,

One of those Bills fans is a double amputee and a cancer survivor named Charles "Chuckie" Sonntag, according to the Buffalo News.

As you can imagine, people took that badly. And so Olbermann devoted almost three minutes of a four-and-a-half minute segment for his "Worst Persons in the Sports World" to Texas A&M. Technically, he devoted it to the interim president of TAMU, but Olbermann also made it clear that it was pointed toward the institution as a whole.

No one is questioning that the optics for the school here are terrible. Threatening to sue cancer survivors who aren't double amputees (or vice versa) looks bad enough; threatening to sue someone who is both looks awful, whether the reasons are legitimate or not. However, Texas A&M actually does have a reason to pursue the case: If they don't crack down on Sonntag and his cohorts, it could cause them legal problems in trying to keep an NFL team or someone else from stealing their trademark. Thus, the threats.

On the other hand, A&M has settled this issue with two NFL teams, as the original Fox Sports story notes. The Seattle Seahawks and, um, the Buffalo Bills are allowed to use the term while paying licensing fees to the university. It shouldn't be hard for the legal minds at A&M to come up with some sort of agreement for Sonntag and his crew to pay some nominal licensing fee, like $10 a year or something, as long as they agreed not to profit from their campaign.

Then, the story wouldn't be about how Texas A&M is threatening to sue a double amputee and cancer survivor who's trying to keep the Bills in Buffalo. (Side note: I've been to Buffalo for a Bills game, and the atmosphere is great. They shouldn't move.) It would be about how the Aggies managed to protect their trademark while accommodating a diehard Bills fan who's an inspiration to everyone. It might even get Keith Olbermann to take back what he said.