Kenneth Epich is an Arizona State fan and alum who bleeds maroon, if not gold.
He attends ASU events whenever the Sun Devils are playing in the Chicago area, whether it's football or a golf tournament. And he and his wife, another ASU grad, were among the founding members of Chicago's chapter of the ASU Alumni Association. But Epich is no fan of ASU's new Nike-designed "pitchfork" logo. Blame it on his job.
It's Sgt. Epich of the Chicago Police Department assigned to the Area One Gang Enforcement unit.
Admittedly, he looks at the world a little differently after dealing with street gangs for 25 years. And he's convinced that it is a matter of time before what he described as a "large, violent, mostly Hispanic Chicago street gang" called Satan's Disciples adopts ASU's new athletic gear because of the new trident logo.
"The gangs adopt sports teams and wear their gear," Epich said. "The S.D.'s are going to adopt the (ASU) hat as their hat of choice just as soon as they see the first person wearing one."
He probably has reason to worry. After all, there's the devil tie-in. Sun Devils and Satan's Disciples both start with an S and a D. And, of most concern to Epich, there's that trident.
Turns out the gang uses a trident similar to ASU's as one of its symbols. Gang members have them tattooed on their bodies and tag neighborhoods with them. Epich believes some of the artwork he has seen of the gang's symbol is strikingly similar to the ASU trident.
"It bothers me that, one, this gang will be wearing ASU gear, but also that ASU and Nike were so naive to develop it. In my mind, it's the spitting image of the S.D. trident."
The folks at ASU disagree. You might say the Devil is in the details.
Steve Hank, associate athletic director, revenue generation at ASU who spoke by phone with Epich about his concerns, said the Nike trident for ASU and the street art produced by Satan's Disciples members "are not even close."
It's also true that the old "Sparky" logo carried a trident and gangs didn't adopt him. Of course, a Disney-inspired cartoon probably isn't going to get you much street credit.
"The one thing we can tell you is we vigilantly defend our marks," said Hank, who also happens to be from Chicago.
"If they were to use it in that way, we would take all legal action to protect our mark."
Trouble is, there isn't much ASU or any other pro or college team can do to prevent a gang from adopting its gear.
Most of the reaction we've gotten indicates that younger ASU fans and alums like the new look.
Older fans, not so much.
ASU officials have predicted their revenue from merchandise sales will double over the next few years thanks to the stuff. And every pro team or college team faces the same concerns when designing gear aimed at young consumers: It's a demographic that contains current and future fans and potential recruits - but also gang bangers.
With a large ASU alumni base in the Chicago area (not to mention an ASU football game at Illinois this fall) Epich believes trouble is inevitable.
"Some unsuspecting ASU grad or the nephew of a grad or just some person who was at spring training and liked the hat is going to be wearing it in Chicago and stumble upon a car load of Latin Kings (the S.D.'s rival gang), and they're going to beat the (expletive) out of him or kill him just based on the fact he's wearing a hat," Epich said.
Epich added that he knows ASU isn't going to discard its new Nike-designed logo and branding campaign because of a street gang in Chicago.
He just wishes ASU and Nike had looked into it more closely, and he wants people to be aware of the situation and hopes ASU officials will monitor it closely.
"Of course we will," Hank said. "But you can't stop somebody from walking into a store and purchasing a cap.
"Trust me, we don't want it, and we'll keep an eye on it and take every single step to prevent that from happening."
Thanks to Bob Young
Best of the Month!
- Chicago Mob Infamous Locations Map
- The Chicago Syndicate AKA "The Outfit"
- One Family's Rise, A Century of Power
- THE OUTFIT'S GREATEST HITS
- Mafia Links of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons
- Top Ten Signs a Mafia Boss is Nuts
- Profile: Harry Aleman
- Firm with reputed mob ties flourishes
- Abraham Kiswani, Owner of World Security Bureau, Indicted on Tax Evasion Charges
- Chicago Alderman Ed Burke Charged with Extortion by Federal Prosecutors #Corruption