USOC Says Oxbow Can Keep ‘Olympians’

  • A letter from the United States Olympic Committee prohibits the use of imagery such as the five rings or the Olympic torch, except for this long-used shield.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/5/2018 12:02:45 AM
Modified: 10/5/2018 12:03:40 AM

Bradford, Vt. — It appears Oxbow High School will be allowed to continue using the Olympians nickname after all.

Following discussions between attorneys representing the United States Olympic Committee and the school, with input from school administrators, the USOC last week said it would allow the Olympians moniker in a settlement agreement letter addressed to Orange East Supervisory Union Superintendent Emilie Knisley.

The agreement, first reported by the Journal Opinion, will allow Oxbow to continue using the nickname it adopted when it opened in 1971, seven years before passage of a federal law that granted USOC exclusive rights to terms such as “Olympic” and “Olympiad,” as well as symbols and emblems associated with the Olympic games.

The letter from USOC associate general counsel Kelly C. Maser says, “Due to the longstanding historical use of Olympians as the mascot for Oxbow ... the USOC hereby consents to Oxbow’s continued use of Olympians,” before going on to list conditions of the agreement.

Those conditions include refraining from use of the five-rings logo and other Olympic symbols. Oxbow previously had used a variation of the 1996 Atlanta Summer Games symbol, including a version of the five rings, on football helmets until 2010.

Back then, Oxbow was contacted by USOC about potential violations of the federal law and voluntarily replaced the rings logo with a University of Oregon-style “O” on its helmets, but asked to keep the Olympians nickname and never received a response, according to Rich Thornton, who was Oxbow’s athletic director at the time.

The more recent developments come after the USOC in early summer contacted Oxbow Principal Jean Wheeler to order that the school discontinue use of the Olympians nickname by the end of next June and to revise or replace all campus references to the moniker, such as wall mats in the gymnasium, by June 2023.

Maser’s letter states that controlling Olympic imagery and terminology is important to the USOC so that the intellectual property can be licensed to corporate partners “that provide the funding necessary for the USOC to achieve its mission.”

Oxbow High School Board Chairman Adam Lornitzo said he was relieved the situation appears to be resolved.

“I’m glad it’s over with, so we can focus on more important work that we have to do,” Lornitzo said in a Thursday phone interview. “We anticipated that there would be a resolution and we wouldn’t get to the point where we’d have to change it. I try not to freak out unless there’s a reason to freak out.”

Aside from precluding the rings design, Maser’s letter also prohibits use of other imagery such as any resembling an Olympic torch, except for a long-used shield design featured on the school’s website and elsewhere that includes the term “Oxbow High School,” but not “Olympians.”

“The USOC agrees that the use of the shield design (which includes a torch) ... may be used with ‘Oxbow’ or ‘Oxbow High School’ but not in connection with the mark Olympians,” the letter states.

The USOC agreement settlement letter also stipulates that the school not use Team USA as alternate identification and that it follow the same protocol required by any school attempting to promote a student’s participation in the Olympic Games, and that it not bill itself as an Olympic training facility.

Attempts to reach Superintendent Knisley, who was away on business, were unsuccessful. Principal Wheeler referred a reporter to Knisley for comment. Messages left for a USOC spokesperson were not returned.

Jared Pendak can be reached at or 603-727-3216.

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