Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 12, 2016

David Vitter’s Beef With the NFL

David Vitter is taking on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell

Vitter is taking on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid isn’t the only senator who has a beef with National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The Nevada Democrat has been pushing Goodell to force Redskins owner Daniel Snyder to change the name of the Washington football team, and now Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has joined the fray with a complaint of a different kind.

Vitter is criticizing the NFL’s role in a trademark dispute involving a restaurant in New Orleans, as the Times-Picayune reported. The restaurant, Phil’s Grill, has an event called the “Burger Bowl” and a “Lom-Burger Trophy.”

“The only similarity with the Lombardi Trophy is a pyramid-shaped base,” wrote Vitter. “Has the NFL trademarked the pyramid shape? Are you also initiating legal action against the nation of Egypt and Transamerica Corporation?”

The Republican, who is running for governor of Louisiana, is selling the Phil’s Grill T-shirts on his campaign website, with the money going to charity. Vitter was scheduled to visit the restaurant on Friday afternoon, according to his campaign.

Text of the letter from Vitter to the NFL appears below:

Dear Commissioner Goodell:

Who Dat! and how are you?

I was genuinely perplexed and disappointed to read recently of the NFL siccing lawyers on another Louisiana small business – Phil’s Grill – regarding alleged trademark violations.

Of course, I respect the NFL’s valid trademark rights, which legitimately earn you billions of dollars every year. But this case doesn’t involve those valid rights.

In this case, you are complaining that the cartoon Burger Bowl trophy, the “Lom-Burger Trophy” at Phil’s Grill (see enclosed) will confuse people into thinking that it’s associated with your Lombardi Trophy or that it’s an official NFL prize.

Come on – really? That just doesn’t pass the laugh test.

The only similarity with the Lombardi Trophy is a pyramid-shaped base. Has the NFL trademarked the pyramid shape? Are you also initiating legal action against the nation of Egypt and Transamerica Corporation?

The entire Burger Bowl contest is obviously done in good fun at Phil’s Grill. It’s a celebration of your sport, not a “dilution of our famous mark” or case of trademark infringement, as your lawyer heavies suggest. And oh, by the way, the entry fee proceeds all go to charity. Phil was just recognized by the National Restaurant Association for the fifth time for his outstanding work in community service and on behalf of New Orleans-area charities.

In that spirit of fun and charity, I’ve enclosed five t-shirts featuring the Phil’s Grill trophy with the message: “Who Dat Says We Can’t Have Fun For Charity!” The back of the t-shirt reads “Support Team Gleason,” one of our favorite causes.

You see, I’ve become an official licensee of Phil’s Grill today and am offering these t-shirts for sale on my website, (See enclosed one-sentence licensing agreement.) All proceeds will go to the Team Gleason Foundation to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

So wear the t-shirts as a proud partner of Louisiana small businesses and charities. Or alternatively, have your lawyers include me in any future legal action.

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