Monday, 3 February 2014

Rethink for Jessie Vetter’s goalie mask silly and unfair

For a competitor that was considered the Babe Ruth of NCAA women’s hockey goaltenders, the
unfair controversy over her goalie mask starts Jessie Vetter’s quest for gold on a negative note. Rather than focusing on her distinguished career, sadly, most of the exposure in the media has centered on a mask that was only meant to proudly display patriotism.

Revealed on January 6 by InGoal Magazine, the artistic renditions on her original mask for Sochi included the Statue of Liberty on the forehead, Olympic rings on the chin and a portion of the Declaration of Independence on the reverse. Shimmering metal flake on the red, white and blue stars is complemented by a screaming bald eagle on each side.

Perhaps the most attractive feature of Vetter’s mask is the USA logo adorned in 23 karat gold leaf embossing. Certainly it shall be the color of choice that Vetter is hoping to win. 

Crafted by Ron Slater of Slater Lettering and Graphics, he is a renowned artist who has designed numerous masks. With the real gold on the mask, it is a tremendous motivator and a reminder of why Vetter and her teammates have worked tirelessly; so that the gold medal can adorn their necks in a few weeks time at Sochi.  

Considering the controversy that has surrounded the 2014 Winter Games like a black cloud, Vetter’s mask has become an unlikely victim. The International Olympic Committee requested that modifications needed to be made. In addition to the deletion of the wording from the Declaration artwork (which featured “We the People” in large type) on the back of the mask, the Olympic rings had to be removed. 

Although the rings simply signify that she is competing at the Games, which would seem harmless, the IOC is infamous for protecting its brand and name. For all the athletes that have the Olympic rings tattooed on their physiques, will that have to undergo review in the future?

Engaging in mere speculation, should the mask have been sold in future years, it would have been easy to prevent such a sale due to copyright and/or intellectual property issues concerning the rings. Although it may be simpler for the next Games if the Olympic charter was simply revised to mention that the use of its rings are not allowed in any equipment design.

As a side note, this is not the first time that a goalie from Team USA has been forced to make changes to a mask. At the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games (Vetter’s first games), Ryan Miller and Jonathan Quick were forced to comply with Rule 51 in the Olympic charter, which bans any sort of advertising, demonstration or propaganda on athlete’s equipment. On Miller’s mask, the wording “Matt Man”, a tribute to a late cousin was removed. Quick had the wording “Support our Troops” stripped from his mask.
While the IOC indicated that writings of any kind to promote a country are not allowed, hence the reason for the removal of “We the People”, there is an obligation to provide an explanation regarding the Slovakian men’s hockey jersey. Based on all the rules and regulations that exist, how can said jersey not be in clear violation? While it is an aesthetically pleasing design, their national anthem is sewn throughout. From far, it looks like powder blue horizontal lines on the jersey, but up close, the wording is visible. While the extremely tiny writing sewn in the fabric definitely represents a remarkable innovation, it is promoting their country.

If there were other athletes that would have complained about Vetter’s mask, the decision would have been easier to comprehend. Sadly, this is not the first unnecessary controversy that has impacted the image and perception of the Sochi Winter Games, and will likely not be the last. For a world-class athlete like Vetter, it is best to simply shrug it off and move on. Years from now, the mask change will simply be a blip on the radar in her Hall of Fame worthy career, while the only aspect that fans will truly remember from her time at Sochi is what color medal she earned. 
Images obatined from: InGoal Magazine

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