How many Olympic athletes have you insulted?

Today, I learned that I have insulted the entire US Olympic team. In fact, not only have I done this once, I have done it twice – first in 2008 and again in 2010. I feel it is only right that I publicly admit to my shameful actions and share them here with you. The pictures below are graphic and may be upsetting to some, so please only look if you have a strong stomach. May not be safe for work.

Let me steel myself first…ok. Here it is: the evidence of my shameful lack of respect for the Olympic games and athletes everywhere.

Ravelympics hat (5)

Ravelympics wristers (3)

Ravelympics scarf (4)

Olympics Sheepnuts Cloche (6)

My Insanity Olympics Sheepnuts Scarf (2)

Not Just for Olympics Cloche (11)

Again, my apologies to all, but most especially to the US Olympic athletes. Had I only known that by – please forgive me, but I’m going to have to use the word – that by knitting I was denigrating the Olympic games and disrespecting all your hard work, I swear I never would have done it. I can only plead ignorance.

So I am so very grateful to the US Olympic Committee for bringing it to my attention and to the attention of all of the Ravelers who took part in the 2008 and 2010 Ravelympics:

We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games.  In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.

I mistakenly believed that by challenging myself to do things that I had never done before, albeit with needle and yarn, while cheering on these athletes as they pushed themselves to their highest level, was actually showing respect and support. The hat shown at the top was my very first felting project, and I did the hand felting part when there wasn’t any TV coverage of the Olympics so I wouldn’t miss it. The fingerless gloves? My very first pair, and the first time I’d ever used DPNs. I didn’t medal for the gloves – I finished them the same day the Olympics ended but after the closing ceremonies, but in the spirit of the Olympics I was determined to finish anyway. (Well, I thought it was the spirit of the Olympics, but clearly I was wrong.) And the two hats in the bottom pictures, together with the buttoned cowl, clearly were not enough of a challenge, even if I did choose the hat pattern specifically because I’d learned the lump in my neck might be cancer (it was) and I might need them for chemo (I didn’t, so I gave them away to someone who did…but that wasn’t in the Olympic spirit either, I’m sure), and even if the cowl required me to start over several times because if at first you don’t succeed…

I am also deeply appreciative that the US Olympic Committee reminded me of the true spirit of the Olympic Games:

The Olympic Games represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony.

Clearly, I erred in thinking that joining together electronically with thousands of other knitters, crocheters, weavers, spinners, and dyers, across not only the United States but the world, could help promote things like world peace and harmony. Just because we found something to bridge our differences – be they racial, cultural, religious, or any other – and learned how to tolerate and respect one another as we celebrated the endeavors of our respective athletes doesn’t mean it was a worthy gesture since obviously knitting has nothing to do with culture or education. How incredibly pompous of us, really.

So again – my deepest and most humble and sincere apology. It is terribly unfortunate, of course, that the US Olympic Committee has managed to suck away a lot of the anticipation I had for the 2012 Olympics, but I accept that the error was mine in the first place. Yes, the Ravelympics had me watching the Olympics for the first time since I was a young child, but two wrongs – knitting and the Ravelympics – don’t make a right. The poor US athletes could probably sense that I was knitting while I watched and cheered, and who knows how many medals that knowledge may have cost them? Or dollars, since any time I spent knitting was time I wasn’t spending with one of the many corporate sponsors (whom we all know should have priority)? Now that I have been set straight, I am relieved to see that as many references to knitting and other fiber crafts as possible are being squashed to protect the purity of the Games.

It’s a shame about that red, white and blue cabled sweater I planned to design and knit during the Ravelympics in honor of our athletes, but at least now I won’t be disrespecting anyone with it.

Note: I replaced the original link to the Ravelry thread to a Gawker article, so people could read the letter without having to get an account, but for anyone interested in that thread, you can find it here.

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93 Responses to How many Olympic athletes have you insulted?

  1. Mish says:

    I too, have sinned, and in the same Olympic games as you. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

    • JWisecup says:

      I had not yet sinned, but I thought about doing it this time around, which is just as bad.

  2. teabird says:

    I, too, have sinned….

    • Dalequan says:

      While I didn’t sin by knitting I sinned by spinning. I admit I watched the olympics and spun wool and admired the woolen winter goodies the athetes were using…I’m such a baaaaaaaaaaaaaaad woman.

  3. Jude says:

    May I post a link to your blog on my FB page? You said everything I feel in a much better way than I ever could and I think all my non-knitting friends should see it.

    • Jen says:

      Certainly, if you like – I have no problems with this being shared. And thanks. :-)

      • Jane says:

        This post is rapidly going viral on FB among my knitting friends.
        Well said – and that’s some lovely knitting in those photos.

  4. thank you you said it so well. I am going to repost on my fb Cathy Bean

  5. Ktb38 says:

    I too, am guilty of this.

  6. Susan says:

    I’ve shared this with my friends, some of whom are knitters. It’s a world gone silly.

  7. Paula says:

    I too have sinned, and I’m proud to be a sinner. Well said. I’m very happy to hear you didn’t need the hats.

  8. Mooflower says:

    There must be support groups, for all of the shame and guilt. How will we ever go on?

  9. kate says:

    are you KIDDING me? (I’m sorry. Clearly you’re not; It’s just the first I’ve seen of this. I thought it was going to be a trademark cease and desist thing at first.. but I think this is even more ridiculous.)

    I wonder if my Olympics Drinking Game is also against the spirit of the thing? (drink any time they profile a US athlete; take a shot if there’s a tragic family story; finish the bottle when they profile a non-US athlete…)

    • kate says:

      Sorry, clearly should have clicked through. Ok: here’s the thing about letters like this. It’s their job as attorneys to protect their clients trademarks. If they fail to do that – by sending letters like this to anyone under the sun, including the Ravelry folks – actual infringers that they’d like to stop have an argument in court that they have abandoned their mark. It’s what lawyers call “due diligence” to send letters like this. (A couple years ago there was a satiric website – can’t remember which one – that made a fake ad for “unicorn meat” and used the phrase “the other other white meat” or something and got a letter from the pork people about it. I like to think that lawyer was rolling his eyes and laughing as he wrote that letter, personally.)

      • Jen says:

        While I see – and don’t disagree with – your point that trademarks must be protected or they can be lost (hey, I write and sell patterns – I have the same concerns with copyright!), my issue with this letter is twofold:

        1. I think they’re stretching with their issue with the word “Ravelympics, and
        2. There was absolutely no call to be so insulting.

        For the trademark issues of the patterns they mention, they may well have a case in SOME instances, but it’s been pointed out that at least of the patterns was designed for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and it includes neither the rings, nor the word “Olympics,” nor “USA” (since it was designed by a Canadian). Clearly, someone was going with the shotgun method of litigation.

        • lulubelle says:

          Pork board sued a lactivist blogger several years ago over her use of “the other white (something, can’t remember)”. Pork board doesn’t screw around. They would have sued Think Geek over the unicorn meat thing had TG not complied

        • kate says:

          Oh, I completely agree with the insulting part. I honestly haven’t looked at the patterns for the details, but it sounds from other accounts like there is a complete scattershot enforcement thing going on, so it’s not surprising that they’re overreaching.

  10. Helen says:

    Love it. I couldn’t have put it better. Helen

  11. naelany says:

    Bless your knitterly heart for this post. Thank you! Will be sharing this post because truly, I could not have said this better myself.

  12. Sarah says:

    I’m really sorry this happened and very sorry to hear of your cancer. I don’t you did anything wrong. I’m sure something positive will come out of it.

    • Jen says:

      Thanks, Sarah. :-) I was mostly just in a bit of a sarcastic mood here – when I get angry, I get sarcastic. :-) I truly think that the Ravelympics has been a wonderful thing and brought together people from all around the world, so I’m going to continue to take part whatever we call them.

      And I’ve been cancer-free since my surgery and treatment in 2010. :-)

  13. Jen says:

    Well said. This is the DUMBEST thing I’ve ever heard of. Clearly the USOC lawyers are extremely bored….

  14. Sarah says:

    don’t think* (sorry typo)

  15. ToveB says:

    I sort of lost steam a little after hearing of the e-mail. For some odd reason I actually thought we were all showing support and love for our athletes by competing alongside them, albeit it in such denigrating activities as textile crafts. Part of the fun of the Ravelympics is watching the games, but now I don’t know if I will.

  16. Oh, my goodness, is there similar turmoil with the Tour de France officials over the Tour de Fleece? The horror… Boy, some people (the Olympic lawyers) really need to get either a hobby or a sense of humor. Would it be too much to ask for both?

  17. Tricia says:

    Genius! Thank you for saying this so well.

  18. Dalequan says:

    ….knocks on wood about Tour De Fleece

  19. faith says:

    Wow…i feel just terrible the slippers I knit for my Grandmother with Alzheimers with yarn that was once hers in 2010 robbed an Olympic athlete of much needed funds and support.

    • Emily says:

      …and dignity. Way to denigrate all their hard work, you selfish person.

      (Dear US Olympic committee: don’t mess with knitters. We have sharp tongues, strong networks, and disposable income.)

  20. guinevere says:

    Well said, as always.

    I had such fun last Ravelympics, choosing projects to challenge myself and improve my knitting skills, uniting with other fiber artists from around the world in the spirit of “friendship, solidarity and fair play.” (from the USOC website)

    In that experience, I can’t think of an example of Ravelry or the crafters who use it profiting from the connection with the Games, except perhaps the commemorative colorway (Sheepn…) that Three Irish Girls created at our request specifically for the TIG Team – but we would’ve bought her yarn anyway. 😉
    “Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles. ” (from the USOC website)
    That pretty much describes what Ravelympics is about, as well as the Yarn Harlot’s competition which was the origin of crafting during the Games. I fail to see how this in any way ‘is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes’ or ‘denigrates the true nature of the Games’.
    Frankly the aggressive lawsuits and openly hostile attitudes this group has shown seems to be in direct opposition to their stated aims. :(

    Thanks for getting this into the light of day; this bullying should be made public.

  21. Laura says:

    LOVE it! Reminds me of the song “I’m sorry… so sorry…”

  22. Megan says:

    I thought the Olympics would highlight, in part, the heritage of the host country, in this case an opening ceremony featuring sheep. How funny to conveniently forget that handknitting was one of the principle industries of England for some time. A shame there was nothing better for the comittee to do.

  23. Cindy Moore says:

    What about all those wonderful knitted hats and sweaters in the winter olympics.?They didn’t make themselves.

  24. DutchAstrid says:

    Hear hear! I love gifted writers!

  25. […] found this Ravelry thread linked from a post by the Magpie Knitter (via a Facebook post by Knitting Kninja)–the original post was 4 hours ago, and there are […]

  26. Molly Howard says:

    I also shared you on my facebook page. I am really outraged and beffuddled by USOC’s claim that “The Olympic Games represent ideals that go beyond sport to encompass culture and education, tolerance and respect, world peace and harmony” Yet this in the very next paragraph is stated: “We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games. In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work”

    Um, contradiction much?

  27. Sugar Momma says:

    I feel the same way. Stupid letter

  28. Joan Ulrich says:

    You need a new haircut.

  29. Saunya says:

    Well said. Although, I also personally take issue with the statement that the athletes have been training most of their lives. I’ve been knitting and crocheting for longer than most of them have been alive, but I guess that too is somehow denigrating to the sport. Go figure.

  30. stitch jones says:

    What pompous, pretentious bs…

  31. Mindthegap says:

    As a performer in the Opening Ceremonies, I am tempted make a Ravelympics button and wear on my costume! It would also entice you to watch to see if a camera picks it up, as I don’t want you to miss a beautiful show because of such ridiculousness!

    • GailinCCB says:

      I’m sure you’re going to be great at the opening ceremonies. I, for one, would be honored if you wore a Ravelympic button. But sadly, I won’t be seeing the Opening this year. I’ll be knitting and watching something else.
      I don’t think I’ll ever be able to watch the ‘games’ again.

  32. Christina says:

    Hear hear! It’s really the unnecessary insult to knitters that kills me. I get the trademark fuss; whether I agree with it or not. But to insult our pastime because it “insults” yours? Please.

  33. BentNeedle says:

    Wow. This is beyond ridiculous. And the story about the handmade cushions is so sad. It’s almost enough to make you lose what faith you might have left in humanity…except for the fact that so many people made cushions in the first place.

  34. Debbie Kenyon says:

    Proud to be a sinner too and will continue to do so. Also, is it really true the Olympic Committee said this? It’s kind of unbelievably scary and insulting on so many levels.

  35. Wendy says:

    I, too, have sinned gravely against the all hallowed U.S. Olympic Committee.

    However, unlike their hapless law clerk (NOT AN ATTORNEY!!!! Check him out on LinkedIn!!!!), I don’t think I’ve ever engaged in the unauthorized practice of law.

  36. lpbowlingdvm says:

    Honestly…this puts me off the Olympics entirely.

  37. Dorkaleena says:

    Well said! Better said than I could have as well. Honestly, the USOC should have better things to pursue than this.

  38. Vismajor says:

    Oh, I share in your shame. I’m aghast that we’ve all been so callous in our appreciation of the Olympic games that we’ve united across the world in fun & camaraderie for the Ravelympics. How will we ever forgive ourselves for disrespecting the athletes we thought we were cheering on? How will those athletes ever recover from the disrespect we’ve dished repeatedly dished out?

    Really, I blame the Yarn Harlot – she’s responsible for this travesty, given that her Knitting Olympics predate the Ravelympics by a few years. :P~


  39. I couldn’t have put it better.

  40. steven a. says:

    what i don’t get is why they even felt the need to address the ravelympics? like, how it is even such a big deal that it needed a response at all? sheesh.

  41. knittingandroid says:

    This would have been my first sin of this nature, and I am ever so pleased to have it pointed out to me before committing the heinous act I was intending.

    Heaven forbid, electronic camaraderie with my fellow knitters and a pair of knit socks. I also am now aware of the error of my ways.

    • GailinCCB says:

      Every single day, we learn something new and valuable on Ravelry.
      Thank Godric, we’ve been stopped from knitting dead in our tracks!

  42. tabitha says:

    I too an guilty of the committing this grievous sin twice and I was planning to sin again this year. Further, I was even guilty of participating in my sin while eating and drinking foods from the Olympic corporate sponsors. How could I have been so blind? Thank you USOC for letting me know how wrong it was to drink soda and eat processed fried chicken bits and potatoes while partaking of the sinful practice of knitting. I shall not repeat that mistake.

  43. Susan says:

    The USOC will pry the Ravelympic knitting needles out of my cold, dead hands. Knitting was good enough when Special Olympics needed scarves, and knitters and crocheters were proud to help: Now suddenly we’re an insult to athletes? Give me a break!

    Surely the USOC could find better ways to support their athletes than by going after knitters. Somebody please tell me this whole thing is a joke.

    • Amy-lynne Mitchell says:

      Susan, you couldn’t have said that any better. Thank you.

  44. Karen says:

    I too have sinned, and I will continue to sin as my addiction to knitting and crafts has been with me for over 40 years. Unfortunately for the Olympics and their sponsors I will simply watch something else or better yet knit in quiet.

  45. Cindy Pao says:

    Wondering why “olympics” had to be copyrighted in the first place? Just seems a little wrong and, well, money grubbing.

    Thank you for the sarcasm – keep it up!

    • Susanne says:

      Indeed – since when it was the USOC who invented and created the name “Olympics” and so has the right to copyright it?
      If I remember correctly that term dates back to the old Greeks…

  46. KChenche says:

    So well said, I too have sinned the same as you.

  47. Rainne says:

    Considering that they stole the name “Olympics” and the whole idea from the ancient Greeks in the first place, I say EFF the USOC and EFF their supposed trademark.

  48. Kay says:

    Well said…very well and thank you for expressing thoughts and feelings on this that so closely reflect my own. I may still watch the games while I knit….no disrespect intended to the athletes or the years of dedicatipn to their sports, but I too have invested years of hard work and effort into becoming the best I can be at my craft. But while I will cheer on the athletes and shed some tears with those who win and those who don’t, I am going to be careful of making any future purchases from commercial sponsors.

  49. Rebecca says:

    I deeply regret my hideous error in attempting to expand my personal horizons as a crafter. I hope our kind US athletes can somehow forgive me.

  50. YOU ROCK!

    You said basically what I was thinking (and in the same snarky tone too 😀 ). I’m with you – I would not have watched all of opening & closing ceremonies in 2010 if I weren’t at Ravelympics parties for those. I got a lot of knitting done.

    I was looking forward to this year’s Ravelympics, challenging myself by joining two teams despite having two conventions (where I am appearing as a Ghostbuster) and my annual Relay for Life (American Cancer Society) event falling during the time period. Now….well I’ll still work on the hat I planned for the Ghostbusters team, I’ll need it, but my enthusiasm is just gone. And forget about touching a single Olympic branded Coke! (not that I like Coke that much anyway)

    The Olympics are quickly gonna realize it’s not good to insult millions of passionate people with sharp pointy sticks at their disposal!

  51. CJ says:

    I wonder if they got hot under the collar about the 70’s cartoon show All-Star Laff-A-Lympics.

  52. Mindthegap says:

    Somebody please send this to ‘Ellen’. You know she will make a fuss and stand up for knitters’ rights, I’m sure of it!

  53. KathyInGeorgia says:

    I think what infuriates me the most is that there’s no possible way that law clerk jerk didn’t know just exactly how insulting he was being with that letter. He went out of his way to compose a few extra sneering insults, and I bet he was quite proud of the finished letter. Perhaps he didn’t know the letter would be posted publicly, and I’m fairly sure he’s been surprised by the strength of the public outcry. The two-million-plus people with pointy sticks he insulted also have keyboards–and know how to use them.

    I’ve never been a huge fan of the Olympics–and I like the winter sports better than summer ones. But this law clerk has succeeded in leaving such a nasty taste in the mouths of knitters everywhere, I’m sure I won’t be alone in boycotting the televised games. I’ll still participate on Ravelry, but I’ll do it without any input from the USOC.

    The good news (for me) is that the Atlanta Braves play every day/evening of the Olympics but one, so I’ve got my knitting TV all lined up…

  54. Wool Free says:

    You’ve said it well!!

  55. Fishchick says:

    I was excited about participating in mt first “Ravel…….” (can’t say it for fear of legal action) but I won’t be picking up my needles in the spirit of supporting Team USA and the accomplishments of every athlete who has worked so hard to have earned the title of “Olympian”. I have several friends who will be competing this year and most of their events may be lucky to get a mention throughout Olympic coverage. Several of them were medalists in the last Olympics and it is eye opening to hear their stories on the lack of support they get from the USOC for their disciplines. I won’t identify the sport because I would hate for any of this amazing group of men and women to suffer repercussions for my musings. The USOC needs to support ALL Olympic athletes and quit picking on people with needles. I for one won’t be watching as much of the games as I had planned because of the USOC’s arrogance. They should be embracing our enthusiam and spirit not insulting a sizable group of Olympic supporters.

  56. […] surprisingly enough led to a lot of people saying, “WTF?” and that’s just a small sample of […]

  57. Laurie says:

    just posted the link to this post on the FB page for the Ellen show… The world needs to know! :)

  58. Mary Ann Kintner says:

    I competed in other ones but not this one because I just got internet back! You have stated so much better than I ever could exactly how I feel. The Olympic Committee is being very predejust (sp?) against us. Shame on them! Having our games made watching the Olympics more fun for us while being productive!

  59. Suzy says:

    Luckily the USOC corrected my course before I could commit so foul a sin as denigrating their honor by knitting. I am so relieved.

  60. Mary glass says:

    Well I toooo have sinned as u say by knitting lovely jumpers and stuff for my daughters whilst waiting for them to finish their training. And yes england r going to have sheep as part of their celebrations now correct me if I’m wrong but where t heck does wool come . Ok protect or patent a logo . But no point going to extremes . I say ladies I’m definitely going to avoid t games and everything that entails So it looks like I’ve set myself a challenge .

  61. I am in awe of your writing and masterful approach to this sorry situation. Will be linking it every which way. Thank you for making my day. On with the knitting! (And now I may have to write a song about this…)

  62. Berni Crumb says:

    What an eloquent response to the USOC’s nasty letter.

    This was going to be my first participation in Ravelry’s commemoration of the Games, but now I don’t know that I’m going to bother. I’ll still knit, but I think I’ll do so when watching the DVDs of 1940s House, Kenneth Brannaugh’s Love’s Labours Lost, and other non-O****** audio-visual fare.

    Sorry, athletes. You’ll have to find your support from someone else as the USOC has told me that I can support you in the way I prefer.

    • Berni Crumb says:

      Grrr. Why is it when I type “cannot” it always ends up posting as “can”?

      Correction: Sorry, athletes. You’ll have to find your support from someone else as the USOC has told me that I cannot support you in the way I prefer.

  63. Stacy A says:

    I’m not a knitter, but I’m friends with someone who is. She posted this on facebook. All I can say is … wow. Wow, what horrible people you all are for, you know, doing the “k” word with other “k”-ers around the world during the Most Sacred and Holy Olympics. It is the ultimate sin.

    Seriously … PLEASE copy your blog post and send it to the IOC!! They need to see it. They need to know that it isn’t only ATHLETICS that foster peace and harmony amongst peoples of the world, but that there are other things that can do that, too.

    And whatever you do, DON’T cancel any future Ravelympics, or even call them by another name (unless threatened with a lawsuit or something). Keep on doing the good stuff you’re all doing!

  64. […] The Magpie Knitter Getting from "Ooh, shiny!" to a design Skip to content AboutFree PatternsFor Sale PatternsErrata ← How many Olympic athletes have you insulted? […]

  65. Laurie says:

    I agree – send this stuff to the IOC. I was thinking that myself. It’s ridiculous to chastise a group that gathered from AROUND THE WORLD to watch their stupid games… and then to accuse them of being disrespectful. I mean, what the what??? I really don’t think the person who wrote that letter realized that it was an event that was done in support and conjunction with the games being viewed by participants. Idiots. I’d love to see people in the stands at the events pulling out their knitting… :)

  66. […] Well – I don’t know. It’s been covered on Ravelry and Twitter and Metafilter and blogs. It might even make […]

  67. […] and their blogs to vent. One, Jen Johnson of Washington state, wrote — deliciously — on her blog: Again, my apologies to all, but most especially to the US Olympic athletes. Had I only known that […]

  68. Kara Buntin says:

    Seriously? I can’t believe they’d take it so seriously, considering that the “world’s finest athletes” do super important things like run really fast, or ski downhill without hitting poles. Well, I guess that could come in handy if you’re trying to outrun a dangerous mob of women with knitting needles…

    They need to lighten up.

  69. Laurie says:

    I think the bottom line is that it was not just a cease and desist letter – that would have been perfectly understandable but annoying. The hackles were raised because the clerk who wrote it didn’t take the time to understand what the even is – a global watch party, really – and then proceeded to infer that knitting something like an afghan or sweater was somehow an insult to Olympic athletes.

    A note my husband made: if the Ravelympics is not a formal organization, business, corporate entity, etc… Is it really an infringement? I’m not sure.

    • Jen says:

      Well, Ravelry IS a business – it supports not just founders Casey and Jess but 2 full-time employees – but Ravelry itself doesn’t make any money off the Ravelympics. I think the other aspect of trademark infringement – possible confusion between the 2 and dilution of the Olympic “brand” is what comes into play here. Personally, I don’t see it…but from what I read in the Popehat article, the Supreme Court has already ruled that the USOC doesn’t really have to work to prove that. They come into the game holding all the cards.


    I hope you don’t mind me posting this – as promised / threatened, it’s a lyric, and though it’s about *all* the things I think are wrong with the O*******, I do refer to the insulting of knitters in there too!

    No music yet because I only wrote the thing today. Writing songs is what I do, and knitting pops up in them a lot!

  71. […] on Twitter. I was all ragey on Twitter myself, and some others vented immediately on their blogs, saying what I felt. There was indignancy, outrage, defiance, indifference, nastiness, the works; and in the middle of […]