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Politics, Pop Culture and Ponderings

John Boozman, Blanche Lincoln and Razorback Football: Politics in Hog Country

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Razorback fever is running fierce among Arkansas’ politicians.
It’s also creating a fracas in Hog Country as candidates try to out spirit their rivals and the University of Arkansas tries to keep track of possible trademark infringement.
Republican Senate candidate Rep. John Boozman’s initial Razorback-heavy TV campaign ad ignited a mini-controversy this week as the University of Arkansas prepares to play University of Louisiana-Monroe Saturday.

Boozman, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Blanche Lincoln, tweaked the ad Wednesday. It still has a football motif but not copyrighted images. The move came after university officials complained that the original could be construed as an endorsement and possibly in violation of copyright.

From 1969 to 1973, Boozman played football for the Razorbacks. His first ad of the general election season featured him standing in front of Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville. A helmet with the Razorback hog logo was also in the ad along with other football memorabilia.

In a statement, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Boozman’s campaign manager said, “Out of respect for the University of Arkansas, our campaign voluntarily replaced our latest TV ad with one that did not contain any images or logos that might give the perception the University was favoring one candidate over another. Obviously, our campaign does not want to create a controversy for an institution that we have such a deep admiration for, so we amended the opening images of the ad, yet maintained the Congressman’s conservative message. The most important thing in this ad is not the pictures, but the principles that John Boozman will fight for in the Senate.”

But on Thursday, Republicans were whispering that the ad was changed after university donors and friends of Lincoln put pressure on the university.
“Untrue,” said Steve Voorhies, University of Arkansas spokesman.
Voorhies did acknowledge that “someone from the Lincoln campaign or a Lincoln supporter” called the university to ask about it. He said that the phone call came after the university had already started an investigation into the ad.
Arkansas doesn’t have a professional sports team, and the Razorbacks are a beloved institution in the state. In 1994, Bill Clinton was featured on the cover of “Sports Illustrated” wearing Razorback gear and holding a basketball in front of the White house.
Last weekend, at the Razorbacks’ season opener in Fayetteville, Lincoln hired a plane to fly over the stadium with a banner supporting the team’s quarterback. It said, “Blanche says Ryan Mallett for the Heisman ballot.”
Voorhies said the university cannot control air space above the stadium.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, who is seeking re-election against Republican businessman Jim Keet, agreed Thursday to take down pictures on his campaign Facebook page after the university contacted the campaign. The pictures showed the Arkansas Razorback mascot, Sue E, holding a Beebe campaign sticker and a male cheerleader with the same sticker.
According to university rules: “It is a policy of the UA spirit groups that businesses, political campaigns, etc. may not be endorsed (directly or indirectly) while students are in uniform, and this has been reinforced with students. Photos taken of current squad members should not be taken as an endorsement by the University or its athletics program.”
Some candidates have used the Razorback logo in the past. In 1980, Richard Adkisson, a candidate for Supreme Court chief justice, ran an advertisement proclaiming his endorsement by 27 former Razorback football lettermen. He also used the Razorback logo.
As part of a long-standing tradition, the team splits games between its home campus in Fayetteville and a stadium in the heart of Little Rock, where Saturday’s game will be played. Candidates have been promoting their tailgate parties all week.
Lincoln’s Facebook page says the candidate and her husband, Steve, are hosting a tailgate party “when the Razorbacks come to War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock this Saturday, September 11 to beat the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks. We’ll be serving up hot dogs, hamburgers, all the fixins and ice cold drinks. There will be enough for everyone so make sure you bring your friends…and family.” She also has an RSVP form on her website for the tailgate party that says “Hogs Fan for Blanche.”
Republican congressional candidate Tim Griffin has also invited supporters to “Hog-a-palooza” for hot dogs and burgers on Saturday. Campaigns can tailgate, according to War Memorial Stadium rules, as long as they purchase a space.

Late Thursday, Lincoln’s campaign posted a picture of a friend of Lincoln’s and the friend’s daughter at last week’s Razorback game. The football field is in the background. Both are wearing Razorback gear, face tattoos of the Razorback, and Lincoln campaign stickers.

Republicans called a foul: “Blanche needs to realize that just like in football, you have to play by the rules,” said Alice Stewart, senior communications adviser for the Republican Party of Arkansas. The Lincoln campaign said that the photo submitted by a supporter does not violate any rules.

David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision in Atlanta and a Republican consultant, said using sports team logos in political messaging is tricky.

“An unwritten rule in politics has been the careful use of college logos,” Johnson said. “Head coaches and even college players have made endorsements in the past but never in uniform or using the team logos or mascots. The better way to do it is to have a head coach, former player, or famous alumni to endorse you but not to use the logo.”

Written by suziparker1313

March 8, 2011 at 9:10 pm

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