NFL

A Controversial Lawsuit Made the Seahawks Have to Change the ’12th Man’

The Seattle Seahawks have one of the best quarterbacks and one of the best home-field advantages in the NFL. Along with being a typically sold-out crowd, their fans are also raucous every Sunday.

This is in large part due to the team being so good — they’ve been competitive for the last decade as a perennial playoff contender. It also has to do with the Seattle fans being passionate. The franchise has seen to it to honor their fans. But in an attempt to do so, they also got into a bit of legal trouble on their way to doing it. 

The history of the “12th Man” for the Seahawks

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According to 12thManRising.com, on December 5, 1984, Seahawks president Mike McCormack retired the number 12 jersey in honor of Seattle’s fans. They were the first NFL team to honor their fans this way.

The Seattle fans took this honor to heart. In 2003, the team debuted its “12th flag” and had 12 original season ticket holders fly it proudly before the opening kickoff.

Much like Wrigley Field’s tradition of having a different Chicago-based celebrity sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch, the Seahawks often have former players and local Seattle celebrities raising the flag before their games. 

In 2005, the 12th Man was credited with a win for the Seahawks. After a game against the New York Giants in which the vociferous fan base led to 11 false starts and three shanked field goals, coach Mike Holmgren dedicated a game ball to the fan base. 

In 2011, a Seahawks win over the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs led the fans to go absolutely crazy. A 67-yard touchdown by Marshawn Lynch led the fans to actually generate seismograph readings, they were so loud. It’s very clear that the 12th Man gives Seattle a serious home-field advantage.

The 12th Man lawsuit

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The 12th Man idea is baked into the Seahawks’ team culture at this point. But they’re not the only team or organization to use the number 12 as part of their marketing.

As reported by Geekwire, a 2019 lawsuit claimed that the Seahawks were attempting to gain a monopoly on the number itself. A company known as PPTM LLC sued the Seahawks after the franchise opposed PBTM’s application for a trademark related to the number 12.

The suit claimed that the Seahawks essentially tried to corner the market on the number 12, even going so far as to attempt to sue the author of the Hunger Games’ trilogy for her use of the term “District 12.” 

A few years earlier, the Seahawks were involved in another legal battle with the team that had originated the “12th Man” concept: the Texas A&M Aggies. 

Texas A&M’s 12th Man

According to ESPN, Texas A&M had used the term “12th Man” well before the Seahawks. They’d even trademarked it. In 2006, the school and the team came to a licensing agreement that they re-upped in 2011.

In 2016, they agreed to a five-year deal in which they’d pay the school $18,000 per year to use the term. They also kick in an extra $10,000 a year to assist Texas A&M in fighting other uses of the trademark. In 2016, school chancellor John Sharp was happy over the deal, said in a statement that ESPN report:

“We are obviously pleased to have in place the new agreement with the Seattle Seahawks that serves to control and minimize any use of Texas A&M’s trademark ’12th Man’ by any entity other than Texas A&M and its authorized licensees.”

In light of this agreement, Seattle has attempted to curb their usage of the term 12th Man. They’re not trying to go with terms they own, including “12,” “12s” and “We are 12s.”