White House Lawyers to Crackdown on 'selling Obama'

Published February 6, 2009

He is everywhere.

Throughout the campaign season up until now, President Barack Obama’s face has been plastered on countless t-shirts, hats, mugs, shoes, belt buckles, calendars and other merchandise. Now, White House lawyers are looking to crack down on people trying to make a buck off of Obama’s image without disregarding the public’s First Amendment rights.

“Our lawyers are working on developing a policy that will protect the presidential image while being careful not to squelch the overwhelming enthusiasm that the public has for the president,” said Jen Psaki, White House spokeswoman.

Almost as marketable as his image is his wildly popular campaign slogan, “Yes We Can.”  Southwest Airlines had a “Yes You Can” sale, advertising reduced fares. Ben & Jerry’s features an ice cream flavor called “Yes Pecan.” Furniture giant Ikea recently had an “Embrace Change” marketing effort, which also echoes Obama’s campaign for change.

Other groups, such as the National Education Association, are using video of Obama’s speeches in ads. Even the First Family’s name is being marketed. A toymaker tried to sell dolls, “Sweet Sasha” and “Marvelous Malia,” named after Obama’s daughters, but those plans have been axed.

“Because he is the president of the United States and there was this campaign and everyone’s proud, I think the First Amendment will be applied much more broadly with respect to people wanting to use an image of the president that it would be with typical entertainment figures or sports figures,” a D.C. lawyer told Bloomberg News.

Written by BET.com Staff

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