Owner calls Rippers launch a success

David Martin, president and general manager of the new Frontier League team the London Rippers,...

David Martin, president and general manager of the new Frontier League team the London Rippers, stands in front of a poster bearing the team's name. (JOE BELANGER, QMI Agency)

Patrick Maloney, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

LONDON, ONT. - Caught in a rundown between unhappy politicians and outraged community members, the London Rippers inched closer Monday to changing their contentious logo.

With some city councillors pushing to tear up their lease to play at Labatt Park -- it includes clauses relating to "tone and substance" of signs -- team officials indicated the symbol that's reminiscent of Jack the Ripper could be out.

"We're open to it and listening to all sides," said Alison Stier, a vice-president with the Frontier League squad. "The logo has been the main concern (from critics)."

Council ultimately voted not to send a lease-related warning to the team, voting instead, 7-6, to refer the matter to staff as the talks with Rippers ownership continue.

The team name likely won't be changing. Stier also made it clear a new logo isn't guaranteed -- and she was unapologetic about those offended.

"We couldn't have asked for a (better) marketing campaign. . . . We knew it would stir controversy. Never did we think it would be like this."

The name and logo were unveiled last week, immediately sparking a backlash from anti-violence activists who see a clear reference to Jack the Ripper, a 19th-century serial killer.

Owner David Martin recently signed a one-year lease to play in 2012 at Labatt Park, a ballfield owned the city -- hence the involvement of city council.

Though Mayor Joe Fontana had said he wouldn't force a name change, some councillors were mulling ripping up the lease Monday night.

Ross Fair, city hall's executive director of community services and administration, told councillors there are good-taste clauses in the team's lease, specifically "numerous references to tone and substance of signage" at the park.

While some on council, like Harold Usher, downplayed the controversy, others, such as Joe Swan and Paul Hubert, are loudly critical of the name and logo.

Council went behind closed doors late Monday to get legal advice on their options relating to the Rippers' Labatt Park lease. While Coun. Joni Baechler wanted to issue a warning to comply with the lease details, council voted 7-6 to leave it with staff.

Supporting that move were Dale Henderson, Paul Van Meerbergen, Denise Brown, Harold Usher, Sandy White, Bill Armstrong and Bud Polhill. (Judy Bryant and Joe Fontana were absent.)

Almost exactly as councillors first raised the issue Monday, the team issued a statement saying they'd "work together" with city hall to "address concerns in reference to the team logo."

The name-and-logo controversy has sparked international media attention, with major news organizations across Canada and the U.S. weighing in.

The controversy thrilled Martin, the team's owner.

"It was one of the most successful launches in minor baseball history," he told The Free Press last week.

 


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