Detroit Red Wings, NHL, fans condemn use of logo in Charlottesville protest

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Helene St. James, Perry A. Farrell and John Wisely, Detroit Free Press Published 12:41 p.m. ET Aug. 12, 2017 | Updated 4:42 p.m. ET Aug. 12, 2017

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As images began pouring out from violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, a familiar symbol showed up in an odd place: The Detroit Red Wings logo, slightly modified, on signs held by protesters.

The Detroit Red Wings have released a statement condemning the use of their logo by white nationalists at a rally in Charlottesville, where the University of Virginia is located.  

“The Detroit Red Wings vehemently disagree with and are not associated in any way with the event taking place today in Charlottesville, Va.  The Red Wings believe that Hockey is for Everyone and we celebrate the great diversity of our fan base and our nation.  We are exploring every possible legal action as it pertains to the misuse of our logo in this disturbing demonstration.”

The Free Press also reached out to the NHL for a response.

“We are offended by the improper and irresponsible use of intellectual property owned by the National Hockey League and our Clubs and plan to pursue immediate steps to stop that use,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an email to the Free Press. “As a League, we stand for and champion inclusiveness as a value that should be embraced in sport and in society.”

The NHL later released a formal statement of condemnation.

“We are obviously outraged by the irresponsible and improper use of our intellectual property as seen this weekend in Charlottesville, Va. This specific use is directly contrary to the value of inclusiveness that our League prioritizes and champions. We will take immediate and all necessary steps to insure the use is discontinued as promptly as possible, and will vigorously pursue other remedies, as appropriate.”

A state of emergency was declared Saturday in Virginia as clashes erupted among thousands of alt-right demonstrators, counter-protesters, white nationalists and supporters of Black Lives Matter. 

The logo’s wheeled wing, as it appeared in video footage on social media from the protest, as well as on the Detroit Right Wings’ Twitter account, showed the spokes were angled differently than the Red Wings version.

The hockey fan site Russian Machine Never Breaks attributed the logo use to “a Michigan-based group of Identitarians,” known as the Detroit Right Wings

It was not immediately clear if this was the group in attendance in Charlottesville. Requests for comment on the Detroit Right Wings’ Twitter and Facebook pages were not replied to Saturday afternoon. 

Dozens of Red Wings fans took to social media to react to the controversy Saturday. 

In response to the team disavowing the use of the symbol, @JWCDreamshaper wrote: “Alt-Right idiots from Michigan calling themselves the Detroit Right Wings. Basically morons who couldn’t think up their own logo.’’

A YouTube video posted by “Detroit Right Wings” on Aug. 5, which was taken down around 3 p.m., described itself as a “participant in regular activism related to the cause of preserving our people.” A similar Red Wings logo was used as the avatar for the account.

The video post, which had 245 views as of Saturday afternoon, included a link to a gofundme page to raise money for the group’s trip to the Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville. As of early Saturday, the group had raised $328. 

Aside from references to the group that have appeared today on social media, the group Detroit Right Wings leave no known paperwork trail in metro Detroit: Its name appears nowhere in federal court records or in those in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. There is no registered corporation in Michigan under that name, either, and a search on the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs website lists no conflicts with the name, meaning it’s available for incorporation now if someone were to seek it. 

The group is not listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center or the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, both of which track hate groups across the nation.

As of Saturday afternoon, Detroit Right Wings had 25 Tweets on its Twitter account, with 69 followers, 28 likes and 41 accounts it followed. The Twitter account also used the modified Red Wings logo.

USA TODAY contributed to this story. Contact Helene St. James: hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

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