Texas A&M Angry Seattle Seahawks Fans Called ’12th Man’
Texas A&M is angry that the Seattle Seahawks refer to their fans as “the 12th man” in advertising promotions.
The Seattle Seahawks are facing the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl, but they have an off-the-field battle brewing with Texas A&M. School officials are upset with the Seahawks’ use of the “12th Man” theme to recognize their fan support. A&M has legal claims to the “12th Man” moniker, a school tradition that dates to the 1920s.
The Seahawks have celebrated their fans as a “12th Man” since the 1980s, when they used to turn the now-demolished Kingdome into one of the NFL’s loudest venues. The team retired the No. 12 in 1984. Now, a No. 12 flag waves atop the city’s signature Space Needle and the team has raised a “12th Man” banner at their new stadium, Qwest Field.
A&M’s “12th Man” tradition started in 1922, when a student, E. King Gill, was called from the stands to suit up for the injury-depleted Aggies as they faced top-ranked Centre College. Gill never got in the game, but the Aggies won 22-14. The tradition has evolved into a campus-wide commitment to support the football team. Students stand for entire games at Kyle Field and at times, they join arms and sway in unison, causing the stadium to literally shake.
A&M has twice registered trademarks for “The 12th Man” label — in 1990 and 1996 — that include entertainment services, “namely organizing and conducting intercollegiate sporting events,” and products, such as caps, T-shirts, novelty buttons and jewelry.
This is almost as silly as when Pat Riley trademarked the term “threepeat” some years back.
The reference to football fans as “the 12th man” is so ubiquitous and longstanding, it never occured to me to wonder where it came from. Certainly, I had heard fans of both college and professional football teams glorified as “the 12th man” going back well before 1990. After all, it is a rather obvious coinage since there are eleven players in the game for a football team at any one time.
It’s not clear to my how the Aggies could trademark a term decades after it made it into wide usage, regardless of its provenance.