Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Words Can Make a Difference

004Recently there has been an uproar in the knitting community caused by the US Olympic Committee. Now I’m sure you are wondering what knitting has to do with the Olympics. I belong to an online social network of knitters called Ravelry. Whenever the summer Olympics come around, they organize crafters into the Ravelympics which encourages people to knit, crochet, spin, while they watch the Olympics and support their favorite team. We don’t make any money by doing this but it is a lot of fun. I feel this is as much fun as taking part in the many fantasy NCAA tournament competitions that happen every year.

Well, this year, the US Olympic Committee sent Ravelry a Cease & Desist Letter stating,

“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.”

Then NPR ran an article stating,
“It wouldn't seem to be a good idea to get 2 million people with pointy sticks angry at you, but the U.S. Olympic Committee did just that.

So it has just apologized for sending a "cease and desist" letter to a social networking site for knitters that is holding its own sort-of Olympic games.”

The follow up to the Cease and Desist Letter included the following:

“…we sincerely regret the use of insensitive terms in relation to the actions of a group that was clearly not intending to denigrate or disrespect the Olympic Movement. We hope you’ll accept this apology and continue to support the Olympic Games….To show our support of the Ravelry community, we would welcome any handmade items that you would like to create to travel with, and motivate, our team at the 2012 Games”

Now I know you are probably asking why all this uproar about knitting? Well, let me tell you, knitters take their craft seriously, just like any other crafter or hobbyist. We don’t appreciate anyone being disrespectful to our craft or to ourselves because knitting is something that takes time and patience and practice. And then they insult us by telling us they support us by allowing us to use our time and energy to make things and send it to them!

When people use the words “denigrate” and “disrespectful” about something, it makes others stop and take notice.

I always felt like I was taking part in the Ravelympics as a way to support the Olympic Team and encouraging me to watch and cheer them on. I never thought I was denigrating or disrespecting anyone and never meant to do this.

I think this is one more example of the US Olympic Committee overstepping their boundaries. Why in the world would you pick on a knitting community? When I go to Facebook and search the word “Olympics,” I found things such as Redneck Olympics and Dolphin Olympics. Surely Redneck Olympics is much more denigrating and disrespectful than a knitting community having the Ravelympics!

I understand the concept of branding and some have told me that the reason is that this social networking site makes money. But so does Olympic National Park. The Olympic Mountains and the Olympic Peninsula was around longer than the Olympic Committee but maybe they will be threatened too.

All of this is to show that words can make a difference. What a person says and how they say it can have a large impact. I’m not sure the US Olympic Committee imagined having 2 million knitters (and their children and grandchildren) being impacted by their attack on one web site but it happened.

I know I will try to think more before I speak more often! And I will probably be doing a lot of knitting without watching the Olympics. I hope our team wins a lot and the athletes do well in all of their competitions but I refuse to support the committee and their sponsors during this time.

Original Photo by Pat Hensley

1 comment:

Lori said...

Not supporting the Olympics hurts the athletes not the USOC. They were stupid, yeah, but they have the right to protect their trademark just as Ravelry has the right to protect their copyright. They did what they were allowed to do in a very disrespectful way. Had they worded things differently I think a post would have gone out that said, "Hey, we're possibly in violation of trademark. We wouldn't like someone to do that to our trademark so let's pick a new name and move forward with the fun." You're right, it's all about words and how we use them.