Saturday, March 08, 2008

Red and Black name stays with old team

Red and Black name stays with old team
OFFSEASON VICTORY: Judge Gilbert cites state law, orders Shultz's Sports Partners Inc. to avoid interference with EFL franchise

The "original" Watertown Red and Black has won the exclusive right to the use of the semipro football team's name.

State Supreme Court Judge Hugh A. Gilbert has ruled that Sports Partners Inc. cannot use the team name or logo for any purpose in Jefferson County, according to documents filed Friday at the Jefferson County Clerk's office.

Greater Watertown Red and Black Inc., which has been using the name the team has been known by since its inception in 1896, sued Sports Partners and its general manager, Thomas J. Shultz, in January claiming the company is misrepresenting its affiliation with the team and creating confusion among players, fans and sponsors as to who owns the right to field a team named Red & Black.

Shultz fired back an answer, claiming that the Red and Black's coach, George Ashcraft, had agreed to Sports Partners' taking over the team and its marketing in exchange for a coaching contract for Ashcraft. The alleged agreement was never formalized, laying the basis for the suit.

Judge Gilbert's decision was not based on the merits of either side's arguments; rather it was based on a state law requiring a corporation to have an attorney appear on its behalf in Supreme Court.

According to court documents, Shultz submitted an answer and affidavit in response to the Red and Black's complaint, but the corporation was never represented by an attorney, something Judge Gilbert indicated was "critical" to his decision.

"The court is intrigued by the dispute between (Red and Black Inc.) and Sports Partners Inc. and would like to address the merits," Judge Gilbert wrote. "We are constrained, however, by the provisions of (state law) which requires a corporation to appear by an attorney in an action in this Court."

Ashcraft said he was "very pleased with the judge's ruling," although he added "some of the turn of events that happened, some of the things that were said, were too bad."

"We're moving forward," he said. "This year is going to be a good year and we're looking forward to it. That's the point."

Shultz, reached on vacation in Jamaica, said he had not been able to fully digest the judge's decision because of being out of the country. He said the legal battle may not be over, as he plans to file a countersuit against Red and Black alleging fraud and breach of contract.

The Red and Black's suit against him, personally, was allowed to continue by Judge Gilbert. The judge ruled because Shultz did appear in court "in his individual capacity," the issues between Shultz and the Red and Black could not be resolved on motion.

Sports Partners has received approval from the Northeastern Football Alliance to compete in its 15-team league. The Red & Black plays in the Empire Football League.

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