The organization hasn’t changed its mind on the team name and iconography of the Atlanta Braves, which (along with those of the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins) have vexed American Indians for years. No, what MLB has shut down is a mom-and-pop organization that has been producing shirts with the Braves logo misspelled “Barves.” The made-up word became a Twitter joke when careless (or illiterate) Braves fans habitually mistyped their team’s name; eventually tagging your tweets #BARVES or #GOBARVES became the ironic way to cheer on the Braves.
Allison and Everett Steele, the married couple behind design and marketing firm Baby Robot Industries, began producing Barves T-shirts and selling them to in-the-know Atlanta fans, but their business venture came to a screeching halt last week when they received a cease-and-desist letter from lawyers for the Braves and MLB. “I don’t have the deep pockets to fight them,” Everett Steele said, according to a report at 11alive.com. “There were more lawyers CC’d on the cease and desist letter email than I’ve met in my entire life. So there’s not much fight they’re going to get out of me.”
That report also contains some of the legal language used in the cease-and-desist letter the Steeles received; the Barves logo and shirts, it said, “dilute and/or tarnish the distinctive quality of the Braves Marks. Accordingly …(it) constitutes trademark infringement, unfair competition, false designation of origin, and/or trademark dilution, in violation of federal, state and/or common law.”
Many Natives might concede that the MLB and the Braves have a point: You have to be careful when playing with logos and symbolism—you don’t want to dilute and/or tarnish anyone’s distinctive qualities.