In a story that suggests the word “swag” has lost all meaning, Richard Pryor’s widow is suing over a T-shirt that uses a photo of her late husband emblazoned with the word “SWAG,” ostensibly because Richard Pryor had it. According to Urban Dictionary, “swag” is “the most used word in the whole fucking universe. Douchebags use it”—which could suggest why Jennifer Lee Pryor doesn’t want the comedian, an iconoclast and non-douchebag, associated with such an overexposed phrase. Another likely explanation: It’s an unauthorized use of Pryor’s likeness for a dumb shirt that says “SWAG” on it. Whatever the specific reason, she’s asking for $5 million in damages.
Fret Shirt is described by TMZ as “a company that specializes in irreverent tees,” which also translates to an irreverent disregard for the intellectual properties of things like Breaking Bad and Calvin And Hobbes, as well as for clever design. Most of the time, this irreverence seems to involve parodic “mash-ups” like this shirt that irreverently combines the titles of The Walking Dead and Mad Men into one logo that will cause fans to question your reverence for them. But sometimes they just slap the word “SWAG” on a photo of Richard Pryor.
In her lawsuit, Pryor’s widow points out that the comedian won numerous Grammys and Emmys in his storied career, and therefore maybe his accomplishments shouldn’t be reduced to a dumb T-shirt that says “SWAG.” The shirt’s official description respectfully disagrees, saying, “This great shirt is a great tribute to one of comedy’s iconic legends… From his revolutionary style of stand-up comedy to movies like Stir Crazy, Richard Pryor definitely had SWAG!”
Though is certainly seems like a lot to ask, it’s hoped that Pryor’s lawsuit will set a precedent, so that every future use of the word “swag” will also cost you $5 million.