DOCUMENT: Internet, Sports

Obama Business Strikes Out

Major League Baseball forces closure of online t-shirt operation

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Obama Business Strikes Out

MARCH 18--Major League Baseball has forced the closure of an online business run by a Barack Obama supporter who tweaked team logos to create t-shirts promoting the Illinois Democrat's presidential bid.

The web site began selling the $19.99 shirts last month and had more than a dozen versions available when an MLB lawyer sent proprietor Morris Levin a cease and desist letter threatening legal action. Baseball officials contended that the clever shirts, examples of which you'll find on these pages, violated the league's trademarks.

Baseball officials have aggressively used legal threats to dissuade such reinterpretations of its logos, and apparently did not consider the Obama shirts as protected political speech or as transformative of its trademarks. While he briefly continued to operate the site after being contacted by the MLB attorney, Levin, 31, shuttered his t-shirt operation earlier this month.

Levin, an MBA candidate at the University of Pennsylvania's prestigious Wharton School, has said that he was 'inspired by Obama's message' and sought to show his support 'with cool t-shirts.' The Obama shirts--which carried the number '08' on their backs--were a mash-up of the candidate's name and distinctive logos for teams like the Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, and Chicago White Sox (Obama's favorite team).

Additionally, Hillary Clinton's favorite teams--the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees--were also given the Obama t-shirt treatment. (3 pages)