A blind army veteran is at the center of a burgeoning legal fight between the Seattle Seahawks and his wife’s campaign for U.S. Senate.
The Seattle Seahawks issued a cease-and-desist letter to Washington state Republican Senate candidate Tiffany Smiley, over the inclusion of what looks like a team jersey in one of her ads. But the Seahawks previously honored Smiley’s husband, former U.S. Army Major Scotty Smiley, for his service. The decision is part of a larger legal battle that appears to be brewing between the Tiffany Smiley campaign and several Seattle institutions.
“It has been brought to our attention that the Smiley for Washington campaign is making commercial use of trademarks and/or copyrights belonging to [the Seahawks] in connection with its “Game Day” television ad,” the team wrote in its letter to the Smiley campaign.
“Absent an agreement with the National Football League (“NFL”) or the Seahawks, third parties are prohibited from using Seahawks Trademarks in any manner that may suggest that it is in any way endorsed by, or otherwise affiliated with, the NFL or the Seahawks. Given that the Smiley for Washington campaign has no such agreement with the NFL or the Seahawks, we must ask that it immediately cease its unauthorized commercial use of Seahawks Trademarks… It is our hope to resolve this matter quickly and amicably.”
In the ad, Smiley is discussing the impact of inflation on her family’s grocery bills on football Sundays. The ad cuts to her husband for less than two seconds; in the original cut of the ad, he could be seen wearing a dark blue jersey with neon green stripes and what looks like an NFL shield. But it is not immediately clear that the jersey is a Seahawks jersey. The Smiley campaign published an updated version of the ad in which all distinct markings are removed, and Scotty Smiley is wearing a plain blue jersey.
Seattle-based radio talk show host Ari Hoffman called out the Seahawks over the move, pointing out that in 2014, the team honored him as part of their “Salute to Service” initiative. “Hey @Seahawks. You guys honored Scott Smiley in 2014,” Hoffman tweeted. “Now you’re mad about him wearing a Seahawks jersey in a campaign ad because his wife is running as a Republican for Senate. How about you guys focus on football instead of politics? You got enough trouble winning these days.”
Hoffman also shared pictures of Smiley at the Seahawks’ stadium in his army uniform, then ripping open his shirt to reveal a Seahawks jersey underneath. Hoffman questioned whether that jersey was the one he wore in the ad, and whether the team gave him the jersey.
I wonder if this is the same jersey from the ad. It's hard to tell in the ad because you just see part of the top of his shoulders, which demonstrates exactly why these copyright claims are bogus.
I am also curious if the Seahawks gave him the jersey pic.twitter.com/aGlfqqGr7d
— Ari Hoffman (@thehoffather) October 2, 2022
Seattle-area journalist Brandi Kruse said on Twitter that they had, and also pointed out that while they sent Smiley a cease-and-desist notice, they did not level similar notices against a Democrat running for re-election to the Washington State Legislature. “Hey @Seahawks: You sent a cease and desist letter to the @SmileyForWA (R) camp because her hero husband who was blinded serving our country wore the jersey YOU gave him for TWO seconds in a campaign ad,” Kruse wrote. “You said it could suggest an endorsement.”
🧵 Hey @Seahawks: You sent a cease and desist letter to the @SmileyForWA (R) camp because her hero husband who was blinded serving our country wore the jersey YOU gave him for TWO seconds in a campaign ad. You said it could suggest an endorsement. pic.twitter.com/HWjSSsr4J4
— Brandi Kruse (@BrandiKruse) October 1, 2022
So how do you explain this from a Democratic candidate’s campaign page?” Kruse added, sharing screenshots of Democratic State Representative Tarra Simmons spending the day with the team promoting her “work to advance racial and social justice,” in an explicit campaign message on Facebook. “@TarraSimmons5 has done AWESOME things with her life — but so has the Smiley family. Are you a football team or a political organization?”
So how do you explain this from a Democratic candidate’s campaign page? @TarraSimmons5 has done AWESOME things with her life — but so has the Smiley family.
Are you a football team or a political organization? pic.twitter.com/ChJdd7RegA
— Brandi Kruse (@BrandiKruse) October 1, 2022
“The @Seahawks have every right to protect their brand – but do they apply their own rules evenly?” Kruse asked.
Scotty Smiley was deployed to Iraq in 2005, when a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb; shrapnel entered his eyes, permanently blinding him. He continued to serve until 2015, the first blind active-duty officer in military history.
Tiffany Smiley is locked in a tight Senate race against incumbent Democrat Patty Murray. A recent poll from the Trafalgar Group found the Smiley trails Murray by just 2 points.