Bottom line on 'KU Boobs' backlash is, of course, the bottom line
JUN 11, 2013 11:23p ET
Eyes up here, sailor.
Where were we? Oh, yeah. If there's a lesson, buried beneath the cleavage, it's this:
Short of wackadoodle threats and (we hope) outright libel, you can tweet whatever you want, where you want, whenever you want. You can stretch the boundaries of good taste and common sense until they're Silly Putty. You can make Howard Stern blush.
But if you start trying to monetize it, mister, the man is coming. The man will have none of it.
Unless the man gets a cut.
In a sentence that we can't believe we get to type, Tuesday's news cycle in metro Kansas City belonged largely to boobs. Specifically, the Twitter account belonging to the folks at KU Boobs ( @KUBoobs), which is pretty much as advertised: Pictures of women's chests while wearing (tight) University of Kansas-themed merchandise.
If you haven't seen it, or some copycat version of it, well, you're lying.
Eyes! Here! Now!
At any rate, we could argue for weeks as to whether it's tacky, a blow to women's lib, a runaway victory of the First Amendment, or just a part of the massive grey area in between.
What's not debatable is that it has an audience: 57,871 followers as of mid-evening Tuesday, which makes it one of the single-largest Jayhawk-related feeds in the entire Twitterverse. Point of reference: The official KU athletic department feed (@KUathletics) had 63,526 followers; men's basketball coach Bill Self (@CoachBillSelf) had 75,094 followers. KU Boobs had more than three times the love of the official account for football coach Charlie Weis (18,302). It swings a wicked D cup.
Pictures of women in tight shirts on the Internet is not news, per se. It's never the boobs. It's the cover-up.
Kansas officials probably would have been happy to let @KUboobs skip merrily along through its little corner of the Victoria's Secret universe. But somebody with the account — Ken Soap, the man listed as administrator on the KU Boobs Facebook page, didn't return our e-mail or phone messages — decided that all this traffic might rake in some cash.
So, the gang started selling wristbands that said "I (heart) KU BOOBS" on them, for $5 a pop. They claimed a dollar from each sale would go toward breast cancer research, which sounds noble enough.
The man doesn't care about noble. The man wants a piece. KU's lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to the www.kuboobs.com site, which was down as of Monday night, effective June 12.
"We're not trying to shut @KUBoobs down," Jim Marchiony, KU athletics' associate director of public affairs, explained to FOX affiliate WDAF-TV. "It's one thing to have a Twitter account. It's another thing to sell items with ‘KU' on it, which is what they're doing. That's our federal trademark, which we always have to protect."
The bear looks cute, so long as it's sleeping. Poke it with a stick, different story.
Which is not to say the Jayhawks live on the moral high ground here. College athletic departments are notoriously sensitive about copyright infringement, often to the point of lunacy. Wisconsin once made an Iowa high school change the logo on its football helmet because it mimicked the Badgers' trademarked "Motion W" just a little too closely. And KU has a history of being prickly on the subject, even going after a local apparel manufacturer, Joe-College.com, in a lawsuit that was settled in 2010.
You'd think Soap — or his silent, headless partners — would have heard about some of this. Or at least had the wherewithal to Google it at some point. They did it anyway.
The narrative is that KU is picking on the fun kids, which — while true — is not entirely accurate, either. It's more like the Jayhawks are telling the fun kids to stop selling little blue stuff with the letters ‘KU' on them.
No one's telling the fun kids not to party. They're just asking them not to do it on their front lawn.
But 140 characters and nuance are two great tastes that don't always go great together, so out came the outrage, the backlash, and the face-palming. #SaveKUboobs was Tuesday's hashtag of the moment.
The Twitter account, which HAS NOT BEEN ORDERED TO BE TAKEN DOWN AT ALL, added fuel to the fire by sending out a "last call" notice on June 10:
Fair enough. And if KU Boobs closes its Twitter operation, know this: That's their call. And their call alone.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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