Detroit Red Wings considers legal action for team logo use at supremacist rally

Helene St. James, Perry A. Farrell and John Wisely, Detroit Free Press
Published 12:41 p.m. ET Aug. 12, 2017 | Updated 5:57 p.m. ET Aug. 12, 2017

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The Detroit Red Wings are exploring possible legal action after a slightly modified team logo appeared on signs held by protesters at a violent and deadly white supremacist rally in Virginia Saturday.  

The team’s winged wheel logo spokes were angled to look more like swastikas than the Red Wings straight-line-spoke version but the similarities and where it was used sparked outrage both in the NHL and among social media users.

“The Detroit Red Wings vehemently disagree with and are not associated in any way with the event taking place today in Charlottesville, Va.,” the team said in a statement Saturday. “The Red Wings believe that Hockey is for Everyone and we celebrate the great diversity of our fan base and our nation.  We are exploring every possible legal action as it pertains to the misuse of our logo in this disturbing demonstration.”

The NHL also condemned the use of the logo: “We are obviously outraged by the irresponsible and improper use of our intellectual property… We will take immediate and all necessary steps to insure the use is discontinued as promptly as possible, and will vigorously pursue other remedies, as appropriate.”

The sign holders were among thousands at the volatile “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a monument to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. One person was killed and at least 19 injured after a car drove into a crowd of protesters, hours after a state of emergency was declared due to the event. 

It was unclear who or what group was carrying the modified Red Wings logos but the hockey fan site Russian Machine Never Breaks attributed the logo use to “a Michigan-based group of Identitarians,” known as the Detroit Right Wings. 

The Free Press could not confirm Saturday if the Detroit Right Wings were actually the group in attendance in Charlottesville. Requests for comment on the Twitter page carrying the Detroit Right Wings name and the same modified Red Wings logo was not replied to Saturday afternoon. A Facebook page carrying the group’s name but not the logo was not official, according to someone who replied via text to the Free Press’ request for comment at that site.

A YouTube video posted by “Detroit Right Wings” on Aug. 5 and which used the modified Red Wings logo as its avatar and was taken down around 3 p.m. Saturday, described the group as a “participant in regular activism related to the cause of preserving our people.”  The video post, which had 245 views as of Saturday afternoon, included a link to a gofundme page to raise money for the group’s trip to the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville. As of early Saturday, the group had raised $328. 

Dozens of Red Wings fans took to social media to react to the controversy Saturday. 

In response to the team disavowing the use of the logo, @JWCDreamshaper wrote: “Alt-Right idiots from Michigan calling themselves the Detroit Right Wings. Basically morons who couldn’t think up their own logo.’’

Aside from references to the Detroit Right Wings that have appeared today on social media, the group leaves no known paperwork trail in metro Detroit: Its name appears nowhere in federal court records or in those in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. There is no registered corporation in Michigan under that name, either, and a search on the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website lists no conflicts with the name, meaning it’s available for incorporation now if someone were to seek it. 

The group is not listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center or the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, both of which track hate groups across the nation.

As of Saturday afternoon, Detroit Right Wings had 25 Tweets on its Twitter account, with 69 followers, 28 likes and 41 accounts it followed. The Twitter account also used the modified Red Wings logo.

 

USA TODAY contributed to this story. Contact Helene St. James: hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

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