Ole Miss refuses gun store's hockey sponsorship

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – An Oxford gun store owner says University of Mississippi administrators turned down his sponsorship of the university’s hockey club because of the business he’s in.
The university attorney, however, says Ole Miss is protecting its brand and that no student organization is authorized to sell sponsorships that pair one of the university’s logos with that of a business.
Nathan Yow owns Mississippi Auto Arms Inc. and is also a practicing attorney. He said in a letter to the Oxford Eagle and the Daily Mississippian on Tuesday that he made a donation to help the fledgling hockey team. He said in a conversation with the Daily Journal that the donation was in the form of a sponsorship that would include advertising on the hockey team’s equipment bags and its website.
Yow said he was told the sponsorship was turned down because of the nature of his business – an idea he finds ironic given that Ole Miss has a varsity rifle team and that Winchester/Olin’s ammunition plant is about to add hundreds of new jobs to the area.
“When you go to an Ole Miss football game, every other slide that comes on the scoreboard is for Gold Strike Casino, so if you openly accept donations for casinos, how’s that any different from firearms?” he said.
Larry Ridgeway, vice chancellor for student affairs at Ole Miss, said he hadn’t been directly involved with the issue but confirmed the university reviews such sponsorships.
“Obviously, if we’re going to have a university sports club, we want to make sure that the sponsorship or the kind of images they would want portrayed on their sports club T-shirts or jerseys would be something that the university would feel like would be appropriate,” he said.
Yow said as a small business owner he could justify the donation only with the promised business exposure.
“I was told if I wanted to put my personal name on the bags, I could do that, but that’s not going to do my business any good,” he said.
Yow also said he has pursued sponsorships with Ole Miss football and baseball but that “they would never call back.”
University attorney Lee Tyner said he is unaware of exactly what answer was conveyed to Yow, but Tyner’s focus when consulted on the issue was the use of Ole Miss logos. If hockey club sponsorship offers included a promise of pairing a business logo with a university logo – which Hockey Booster Club spokeswoman Sarah Wadford confirmed – the students involved “didn’t know what they could and couldn’t do with our marks,” Tyner said.
“The only thing we said no to was whether student groups had the right to license the use of our logos and marks to third parties, to co-brand with third parties,” he said.
Tyner said such misunderstandings are common, both on campus and off.
“Individual departments don’t have a right to make agreements to use our logo, but I’ve got people doing stuff all over this campus they’re not supposed to be doing,” he said. “We have issues on improper use of our logos, and marks come up every week.”
errol.castens@journalinc.com