The manufacturer of a new T-shirt design using the phrase "MY Jesus" is now under fire from the NFL for using a design similar to the New York Jets football team. The shirts were designed to highlight the fact that team's newest addition, quarterback Tim Tebow, is a popular Christian athlete.
NBC Sports reported on Sunday that CubbyTees.com, the company that produces the shirts received a cease-and-desist letter last week from NFL attorneys. The letter states that if the company does not immediately stop production of the shirts then the NFL will take further legal action.
In addition, The Christian Post reported last week that attorneys for Tebow also sent a letter to the company asking them to stop production because of the assumption that Tebow was endorsing the product.
"Not only has Cubby Tees used Mr. Tebow's name to promote Cubby Tees, but the Merchandise makes it appear as if Mr. Tebow actually endorses Cubby Tees and its products," the letter from Tebow's attorneys read. "Mr. Tebow's name, voice, likeness and identity have a substantial economic value when used for the purposes of advertising, marketing, promoting or endorsing products or services and/or when he serves as a spokesperson. Cubby Tees has misappropriated that valuable property right through the use of Mr. Tebow's name in and in connection with the Merchandise has been unjustly enriched thereby."
But the question attorneys and possibly the courts will have to decide is does Tebow, the NFL or both, have a legal right to stop production of the shirts.
Legal experts who have practiced in the area of sports and copyright law say that Tebow and his attorneys should not be engaged in this battle because it doesn't use any likeness nor does it refer to Tebow in any manner.
In an article on NBC Sports "Pro Football Talk," attorney Mike Florio says it's the NFL – not Tebow – who has the beef.
"The logo infringes on no trademarks or other property of Tebow," Florio wrote. "That said, the shirt blatantly infringes on the New York Jets logo, and we're in the process of finding out whether the Jets or the NFL have launched a separate effort to shut down the sale of T-shirts that, at first glance, appear to display the Jets logo."
The Cubby Tees website features the controversial design on their homepage and although Tebow's likeness or name do not appear on the shirt, the copy of the description makes a direct reference to the popular Jets quarterback.
"We're not generally fond of broadcasting our faith, or mixing sports and religion…but we're also not the kind of guys who would ever tell others how to worship/root/live, and if Tebowmania is any indication, there are millions who like to mix their Sunday pleasure and piety," the website reads.
Executives for the shirt company have told TMZ they would not back down, saying the shirt's design "shares nothing with Mr. Tebow except for promotion of a common Lord and Savior."