If you asked Chicago Cubs fans who the team’s official mascot is, some of them would tell you it is “Billy Cub.” Since 2007, John Paul Weier has been climbing into his bear suit and interacting with fans outside Wrigley Field on game day. Now, the Cubs want him to go away.
Weier NBC 5 Chicago on Thursday that he recently received a 120-page cease and desist letter from Major League Baseball claiming he has been infringing on trademarks. The letter ordered him to stop engaging in “unabated Mascot Activities” and claimed that one of the Billys (Weier has recruited others to wear the costume) has been racially abusive toward fans.
“The Billy Cub characters are not affiliated with the Chicago Cubs,” team spokesman Julian Green said in a statement. “We have received complaints from fans, mistakenly believing ‘Billy Cub’ to be associated with the Cubs.”
Green claimed that one of the Billy characters used an “ethnic slur” and that a Cubs employee witnessed a “prolonged verbal altercation” between Billy and a fan over an inadequate tip. Weier, who lives a block from Wrigley Field, insists dressing up as Billy is about improving the fan experience and nothing else.
“I grew up in Arizona watching the Cubs on WGN, and going to spring training games,” Weier explained. “I feel like there’s something really special about this. I think the fans feel there’s something really special about this. It’s about taking pictures. It’s about giving someone a lasting memory from a Cubs game.”
Weier said he does not make much money playing Billy, noting that he buys a new $1,400 costume and custom size-60 $400 Cubs jersey each season. He also wears an ice suit underneath his costume on hot days, which costs $2,000.
“I’m not getting anything monetary out of it,” he said. “What I’m getting out of it is interaction with the fans. The fact that I make young and old people smile like just random strangers. Until you do it and understand the way it can make you feel, connecting with people that are complete strangers and being the highlight of some people’s experience, as a Cubs fan, you can’t put a monetary value on that.”
Here’s the best part. Weier said he decided to ignore the letter from MLB after consulting with a lawyer. The following day, he showed up at Wrigley Field and was confronted by a Cubs executive who asked if he had gotten the letter. But Billy was in costume, so he refused to speak to the man and simply made gestures. The team executive reportedly became angry but gave up once a fan approached Billy and asked for a picture.
Weier said the team has offered him $15,000 to give the act up, but he wants to become the team’s official mascot. If Weier or the people working with him are actually engaging in inappropriate behavior, you can understand why the team is upset. If all they’re doing is having harmless fun with Cubs fans, the team is likely just angry it didn’t come up with the idea first.
H/T Hardball TalkGoogle+