UPDATE (1 p.m. Friday): Charlie Ruffalo, the owner of a Rock Hill sub shop, has removed former USC star Jadeveon Clowney's name from his marquee.
In its place, he has put up a message for Bus Cook, Clowney's agent: "Owner on the lam tip Monday/ Hiding from the Bus."
ORIGINAL STORY: Charlie Ruffalo, owner of the Sub Station II sandwich shop, says he will comply with a request by Jadeveon Clowney’s agent to change his Cherry Road marquee sign – but don’t expect the South Pointe and University of South Carolina football star’s name to go away.
For the past three weeks one side of Ruffalo’s sign has read “Hurry in for our Jadeveon Clowney sub it goes really fast.”
Ruffalo said the message refers to the two speeding tickets Clowney got in December before the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, a 34-24 South Carolina victory over Wisconsin.
The sub shop does not have a Clowney item on the menu, and Ruffalo maintains his sign is “all in good fun.”
He said Thursday that his shop has not profited from using Clowney’s name.
Clowney’s name, Ruffalo maintains, is in the public domain and this is an issue of free speech, not commercial speech.
Ruffalo said he and his business have received several calls from Bus Cook, the agent representing Clowney. Cook requested Clowney’s name be removed from the marquee and if it wasn’t removed threatened legal action, Ruffalo said.
Ruffalo said he will change the message Monday, but added Clowney’s name will continue to appear on the sign. “It’s something you will like,” Ruffalo said, declining to reveal what the next message will be.
It’s not the first time that the Sub Station II marquee has featured prominent people. Ruffalo said he often uses his marquee to “poke fun at people that do stupid things.”
When Mel Gibson was filming the “The Patriot” at Historic Brattonsville in 1999, Ruffalo posted a message that said, “Please don’t bother Mel Gibson while he eats here.”
Gibson’s agent requested a private meeting, but Ruffalo invited the media. The result was Gibson’s agent asked that the sign read “please do bother” as to not make it appear Gibson was dodging the public.
The Carolina Panthers and Winthrop University have also been featured on the marquee. One message was about the Jake Delhomme, the former Panthers quarterback. The sign read that the Delhomme sub was always intercepted, Ruffalo said.
No one complained about that sign, he said.
Ruffalo said he had “no idea” if Clowney or his family has eaten at his sub shop.
Neither Cook or Clowney could be reached for comment.