Bada Bings! Sports Food & Fun received a cease and desist letter from Georgia State in regards to allegations by the university that it used its name and those of student-athletes when advertising special promotional deals.
The restaurant, located at the Pencil Factory apartment lofts near Georgia State campus, was alleged by the university to have engaged in unauthorized use of certain Twitter handles to plug special deals it offered.
The Twitter accounts specifically mentioned in Georgia State’s cease and desist letter include @GSUPanthers, the primary account for the athletics department. Also mentioned were @gsu_rha, the account for University Housing and @robinsoncollege for the Robinson College of Business.
A picture of the letter was used in a tweet by Bada Bings which elicited some feedback, much of it critical of Georgia State.
— Bada Bings! (@BadaBingsATL) February 10, 2015
The university alleges that the use of these accounts when promoting events and specials, the public would believe that the initiative is sponsored by Georgia State, according to the letter.
Lawrence Morrow, the owner of Bada Bings, says that this is not the case and that the restaurant is simply trying to do business as normal.
“They don’t want us using Georgia State Twitter handles to inform our customers of certain things we’ve got going on,” Morrow said. “We’re simply informing our customers, some of whom just so happen to have Georgia State handles.”
In the letter, Georgia State mentioned that it would continue to monitor Bada Bings’ tweets and that it would take the issue to Sam Olens, Attorney General for the state of Georgia if it did not comply with the university’s edicts.
“I took this letter to the Georgia Speaker of the House [David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge], and he just looked at it and laughed,” Morrow said.
The letter, dated on Feb. 3, was signed by Bharath Parthasarathy, Deputy General Counsel for Legal Affairs at Georgia State on behalf of the athletics department.
Parthasarathy also served as Georgia State’s interim athletics director (AD) for a brief period in 2014 in between the departure of former AD Cheryl Levick and the hiring of current AD Charlie Cobb from Appalachian State.
Morrow mentioned how many of the Bada Bings customers happen to be Georgia State student-athletes, some of whom, he says, live at the Pencil Factory.
“Some of the soccer, football, volleyball and baseball players live [at the Pencil Factory],” Morrow said.
He also made mention of how R.J. Hunter of the men’s basketball team makes visits to Bada Bings with his father, Ron Hunter, who is also the coach of the men’s basketball team.
Included in the letter was an allegation that using student-athletes to promote business at Bada Bings constitutes a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) violation and would affect their eligibility to compete in NCAA events.
Morrow also said that this is another baseless allegation.
“It’s not like we’re asking the student-athletes to come down to Bada Bings to sign autographs,” Morrow said.
He says that part of the prime directive for Bada Bings is to offer affordable deals for the student body. One of its most touted offers is its $10 All You Can Eat Wings deal.
“We created these days for Georgia State students,” Morrow said. “We know that our kids don’t have disposable income.”
According to Morrow, he has no concrete idea as to why Bada Bings received the cease and desist letter, but he told The Signal that someone mentioned to him that it may have had something to do with the university’s relationship with Six Feet Under.
Six Feet Under, a seafood restaurant with two locations in Atlanta, is a sponsor of Georgia State athletics.
Morrow believes that it is an example of the university attempting to excessively use force against the restaurant.
“This is an example of Georgia State trying to bully a small business,” Morrow said. “I’m not going to let them bully a small business.”
Despite the impasse between the restaurant and the athletics department, Morrow says Bada Bings will maintain its support of Georgia State’s teams but was still shocked that he received the cease and desist letter.
“We fully support the Panther Nation,” Morrow said. “We have streams of the football games on when they’re on the road. We do all we can to support the Panthers. So, when I received that letter, I was mad.”
The Signal attempted to reach out to Parthasarathy to get his thoughts on the matter. A representative in Georgia State’s Legal Affairs Department redirected the phone call to Jerry Trickie, associate A.D. for communications in the athletics department. Trickie then redirected The Signal to a representative for Georgia State compliance.
The compliance officer said in an email to the Signal that it is a regular occurrence for cease and desist orders to be issued, but did not name any specific cases.
The representative said that Trickie and the compliance department reached out to Morrow after receiving the letter and has tried attempted to reach out to him via phone and email.