The owner of a Rock Hill sandwich shop is once again at odds with the agent of a public figure.
This time with the man claiming to be the representative of South Pointe standout and University of South Carolina Defensive End and likely top NFL Draft pick Jadeveon Clowney.
Three weeks ago Charlie Ruffalo, the owner of Sub Station II, changed the marquee outside his restaurant to “Hurry in for our Jadaveon Clowney sub, it goes really fast.”
Wednesday afternoon, Ruffalo said a Mississippi man claiming to be Clowney’s agent threatened legal action against him.
“He threatened to file an injunction to get me to take it down,” Ruffalo said. “I explained to him, ‘If you want to spend the time, effort and money of your client to take it down, I’ll do it for free if you are a nice guy.’”
The agent — Bus Cook of Hattiesburg, Miss., agency B.C. Sports, spoke with WRHI late Wednesday, claiming the use of Clowney’s name was illegal.
“I’ve been doing this business for twenty-something years,” Cook said. “I’ve never known people to arbitrarily and openly take somebody’s name and use it for their benefit without getting permission. And that’s what this is.”
Cook’s website says he represents dozens of professional athletes including Brett Farve and Cam Newton, among others. He claims he has personally negotiated contracts worth more than $1 billion.
Ruffalo said he does not offer a Clowney-based or themed sandwich at his Rock Hill store, and claims the Clowney mention on the marquee was in good taste.
“It’s a play on [Clowney's] two speeding tickets. If we did have such a sub and if it was endorsed by him, it would go really fast as in sales,” Ruffalo said. “It’s just a play on words.”
Clowney was cited twice in December for speeding on Interstate 77 and Interstate 26, He racked up nearly $800 in fines from the S.C. Highway Patrol and Columbia Police Department.
Ruffalo said he believes the marquee is protected under his First Amendment rights, but is planning an alternate message for the sign.
Ruffalo received a similar request from the agent representing Mel Gibson following a similar post outside the sandwich shop during the 1999 filming of “The Patriot” in Brattonsville.
That sign read, “Please don’t bother Mel Gibson while he eats here.” Ruffalo said Gibson’s agent asked for the sign to read “please do bother…” as to not make it appear Gibson was dodging the public.
Ruffalo said the sign will be changed Monday, but Clowney’s name will remain.
Attempts to contact Clowney were not immediately returned.
For more on this story, listen to Ruffalo’s on air interview on WRHI’s Palmetto Mornings.