Two black radio hosts acquired the trademark to the phrase “White Lives Matter” after Kanye West said he wanted to sell shirts emblazoned with the hate slogan.
Ye stirred up a whirlwind of controversy after appearing with conservative commentator Candace Owens in T-shirts stating “White Lives Matter” at Paris Fashion Week in early October. During the show, some models also wore clothing bearing the phrase, which the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Centre has categorised as a hateful, white supremacist slogan.
Following the show, Ye wrote in a since-deleted Instagram post that he planned on “selling these White Lives Matter tees later today.” While there have been no updates on plans to sell the t-shirts, his former stylist and associate Ian Connor was seen handing out the shirts to homeless people on Skid Row on October 16th.
On Monday (October 31st) Ramses Ja and Quinton Ward, the Black co-hosts of an Arizona-based radio show titled Civic Cipher, revealed that they were gifted the legal trademark to “White Lives Matter” by an anonymous listener in hopes of avoiding someone else profiting from the phrase.
Civic Cipher‘s ownership of the trademark is listed on the federal government’s trademark database. It covers the phrase’s usage across a range of clothing including graphic t-shirts, hooded sweatshirts and long and short sleeve shirts, amongst many other items. The trademark legally prevents others from using the phrase on most forms of apparel.
Ja and Ward, whose radio show is dedicated to empowering Black and Brown voices, spoke of the origins of the trademark deal in an interview with Capital B. “The way the law works is either you’re owning phrases, or it’s up for grabs for people to make money off them,” Ja told the publication.
“This person who first procured it didn’t really love owning it, because the purpose was not necessarily to get rich off of it. The purpose was to make sure that other people didn’t get rich off of that pain.” Ja went on to explain that the original owner, who is said to have acquired the trademark in September, handed the trademark to the radio hosts, who claimed legal ownership of the phrase on October 28th.
Ja, however, said that the pair plan on selling the trademark and “donat[ing] that money to causes that we feel would benefit Black people, like the NAACP or Black Lives Matter organisations”.
“Realistically, we cannot stop the shirts from being made right now,” he also conceded. “We can write cease and desists to people selling these shirts right now, but that is a big monster that requires teams of lawyers and thousands of dollars that we do not have.” Ja later added that neither West nor his legal team responded directly to the trademark purchase.
He also commented on the rapper’s decision to wear the phrase in the first place. “It’s hurtful, but it’s not something that was unexpected because I know that Kanye has been moving in this direction for some time”, Ja said, “I do my best to try to remember the Kanye that I knew in ’04 and ’05.”
Following the Yeezy show, Ye defended the use of “White Lives Matter” several times, insisting in a now-deleted Instagram post that “THEY DO.” Ye then doubled down on his decision to wear the phrase in an interview with Fox News, saying he “thought the idea of me wearing it was funny.”