This article originally appeared in the April 2004 issue of Dream of Italy
“Big” Problem for Italian TV Producer
What happens when you mix a college basketball mascot with
a loose-tongued Italian businessman? You get a super-sized
lawsuit against Antonio Ricci and an international publicity war.
Thirteen years ago,TV producer Ricci quipped to Italian
magazine Novella 2000, “There was this puppet called Big Red who
was the mascot of an American basketball team. The team is
Western Kentucky University. It plays in minor tournaments, but the
puppet was cute.” Shortly afterwards, Ricci introduced a character
named Gabibbo on his television program, Striscia la Notizia, which
still airs today. Gabibbo looks strikingly
similar to Big Red with a giant fuzzy
red head, arched eyebrows and large
physique. Now, WKU and Crossland
Enterprises, Inc., the mascot’s licensing
company, are bringing a $250 million lawsuit
for copyright violation. And not only is
the “puppet” being insulted, but one of WKU’s “minor
tournaments” also known as the NCAA basketball tournament
which spurs “March Madness,” has been belittled as well.
A spokesman for Ricci said he was only joking, but that’s not enough
to stop the lawsuit or the media war. Big Red has even traveled to
Italy to show Italians the true identity of the fuzzy red puppet.