Oh, the drama of it all
The knitting world collectively raised their pointy sticks in anger over the letter Casey, the co-founder of Ravelry, posted yesterday. For those of you without a Ravelry account here is an article about what happened.
I understand where the USOC is coming from, and I don’t have a problem with the cease and desist portion of the letter. As with any corporation, they have to protect their brand for a variety of reasons I won’t go into here because it’s far too boring, and they have a right to do so under U.S. law. I’m fairly certain the only reason this didn’t already happened is that Ravelry was much smaller two years ago and was able to fly under the radar. Changing the name of the Ravelympics is not a big deal.
What I take from this situation is a lesson on the importance of language. Words carry weight. I’m aware of it every time I write a blog post – once you put something out onto the internet it’s extremely difficult to take it back, to erase it permanently. In my case, I call my husband The Scientist because he has a professional life I don’t want blurring with my personal blog (this was my own decision, not something he asked me to do). You know Charlie’s name, and you get a few small details about him but you’ll likely never know much more because even at 6 he has a right to privacy.
The young man who wrote the letter – and he is young, not even out of law school – is likely learning a painful lesson about the power of words this week. This situation would have brought out annoyance no matter how it was worded, but it wouldn’t have turned into this thing save for two sentences: “We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.”
Denigrate and disrespectful.
I was never going to participate in the Ravelympics this year. The project I’m working on doesn’t translate into one of the Ravelympics events. And I’m still not going to participate. We rarely watch TV in our house – since football season ended in January I think it’s come on three times (excluding when we watch movies) – but I was really excited to turn it on for the Opening Ceremonies and the hours and hours of the games I would be watching afterwards, knitting the entire time. Will I still watch? I don’t know. I guess? This situation has ruined a lot of the excitement for me. A poor choice of words has led to thousands of enthusiastic fans feeling alienated and insulted.
For the rest of my life when someone brings up the Olympics I’m going to think back to this situation, and hopefully to the lesson it should teach us all: words matter. Don’t create unnecessary damage by choosing the wrong language.
Update: the USOC has issued a statement on the situation.