Arizona State and its partners at Nike were obviously aiming for a younger, hipper, decidedly edgier look when they decided to ditch the Sun Devils' longtime logo, a grinning cartoon devil who looks like Walt Disney in an old Halloween costume, in favor of a sleeker, more ominous-looking pitchfork, sometimes set against all-black. Assuming the marketing department's idea of "edgy" didn't quite extend to major urban street gangs, though, they may have succeeded a little too wildly.
Or so says diehard ASU alum Kenneth Epich, a Chicago police sergeant assigned to the city's Area One Gang Enforcement unit who instantly matched the new logo with the crude trident symbol that shows up in the tattoos, graffiti and hand signals of one of Chicago's largest and most violent gangs, the "Satan Disciples." And he thinks it's only a matter of time before his alma mater's new look joins the repertoire:
"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."
"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.
Yeah, that's … probably not so good for business, especially considering that the Sun Devils are playing at Illinois in September and likely filtering through Chicago by the thousands.
Of course, Arizona State itself doesn't quite see the resemblance. Associate athletic director Steve Hank — a Chicago native, coincidentally — told the Arizona Republic the university isn't worried about the design, that the two symbols "are not even close," and that ASU vows to protect its trademark, darn it. "The one thing we can tell you is we vigilantly defend our marks," Hanks said. "If they were to use it in that way, we would take all legal action to protect our mark."
There's an idea: Send the Satan Disciples a cease and desist letter. The streets are one thing; but everyone is terrified of a professional grasp of modification and public display rights.