A letter from the Founders

Gordon Goner
6 min readJun 24, 2022

As you may have heard, we’ve become the target of a crazy disinformation campaign accusing us — a group of Jewish, Turkish, Pakistani, and Cuban friends — of being super-secret Nazis.

Even though the @ADL, which exists to protect Jewish people around the world from just this sort of hatred and slander, has confirmed this isn’t true, trolls are still spreading ridiculous conspiracy theories online and using them to sell knockoff NFTs (surprise!).

We’ve responded to much of this bullshit before (here and here). Others have also come out and called this out in a detailed way: https://twitter.com/The_True_DanK/status/1539089935558492161?s=20&t=a_QHmnHB3bjuwKxo0d6Fmg

We’ve not responded in further detail to these allegations because frankly they are insanely far-fetched. That said, we woke up this morning to a podcaster we respect talking about this conspiracy theory and that was pretty surreal. Made us feel like it was time to come out and put an end to all this.

So here goes:

  1. Why does our NFT collection feature apes?

There’s a long history of people affectionately referring to themselves as apes in crypto, which is why some of the rarest and most valuable NFTs in the CryptoPunk collection, which dates back to 2017, are the apes.

We liked the idea of creating a whole collection around apes who became so wealthy because of crypto’s rise, that they became extremely . . . bored. What is a bored ape to do? Perhaps retreat to a secretive club in the swamp.

2) What was the inspiration for the design of the BAYC logo?

We never wanted to take ourselves too seriously, so the look of the club is ramshackle and divey. Everything about the BAYC was meant to convey a spirit of irreverence and absurdity.

It’s a ‘Yacht Club’ that’s actually falling apart and smack dab in the heart of the Everglades. As such, it needed an appropriately grimey, intriguing logo. We went with an ape skull to help convey just how bored these apes are — they’re ‘bored to death’.

Below is Gordon’s email to the designer we worked with on the logo, laying out our inspirations — punk, streetwear, and skate references, maritime flags and pennants, old Yacht Club flags, etc. The BAYC is a club, so having a version of the logo that was a patch made sense to us, and we borrowed from other Yacht Club logos and motorcycle club patch designs.

I’m sure our troll will find a way to tie the “S.B.C.” pennant here (or other stuff!) to something hateful, but it’s literally just some vintage yacht club flag we found. Here’s the filename we have for it: vintage-yacht-club-flag-blue-framed-7398.jpeg

Since the BAYC logo has become a main point for this troll, it’s worth laying out what the Anti-Defamation League had to say on the subject when contacted:

“The Nazi Totenkopf is one very specific graphic design of a skull and crossbones, and the monkey skull resembles it in no way except insofar as all skulls resemble each other to a certain degree.” — Mark Pitcavage, senior research fellow at the ADL’s Center on Extremism. [Full article here]

3) Talk about the company name, “Yuga Labs”?

We’re nerds, and Yuga is the name of a villain in Zelda who has the ability to turn himself and others into 2D art. It makes perfect sense for an NFT company. We were also aware that “Yuga” means “era” in Sanksrit. Gordon spent a decade practicing Hinduism, and the “Kali Yuga” is the current era we are in according to Hinduism. The ADL quite literally laughed at the suggestion that the term Kali Yuga had anything to do with white supremacy

4) What was the inspiration for the founder’s pseudonyms?

We came up with our pseudonyms on the fly right before launching the BAYC. We wish we spent more time on it, because it’s weird and hilarious to get on a meeting with important people at large companies and say something like “Hi, I’m Tomato.”

Emperor Tomato Ketchup is the name of a Stereolab album. It’s a good record, it was ranked 51st on Pitchfork’s list of the 90’s best albums. Tomato has been an avid vinyl collector many years and thought the name was funny.

No Sass chose his name because Gordon can get very sassy in the mornings with him and it became an inside joke.

Gordon Goner — “Goner” came from the fact that Gordon was sick and in and out of hospitals a lot over the past 10 years, over the course of which he started to think of himself as a “goner.” Also, he thought that the name “Gordon Goner” sounded cool, like “Joey Ramone.”

Garga chose his pseudonym because he’s a massive fan of the StarCraft (and hates “smurfs,” which is how you refer to people who cheat the ladder system in the game). That’s why his bio on the BAYC site was just “Starcraft Obsessed. Eats Smurfs.” In addition, he found out shortly before BAYC launched that his wife had never seen the show Smurfs, which he thought was crazy, so they started watching it back then. Plus, his friends always rip on him for prematurely balding.

There are other claims on our troll’s site, each more ridiculous than the last.

To speed run a few of these:

-None of the founders are good at ciphers or puzzles. We’re awful at them. We had to bring in professional help in the form of a company called Exaltation of Larks (by a brilliant guy named Greg Pliska) to help create the BAYC treasure hunt. All the answers to the treasure hunt were ape or monkey related because … duh. Guenon for example is a species of monkey. Aperol has APE in the name.

-Garga worked as a book editor for many years, and Gordon is a big fiction buff. It’s been our job to think deeply about narrative with stuff like Hemingway’s Iceberg theory or Wittgenstein. Also, yes, Garga wrote his senior thesis on Roberto Bolano, one of the most famous and celebrated Latin American authors of the last 50 years who is beloved in literary circles.

-The BAYC was not launched on the day Hitler died. A reporter got the date wrong in an early article, and the troll has run with it ever since. Second, who even considers the day Hitler died when starting a company? It’s such a crazy stretch.

-One of the most insane things was when this troll posted about Garga’s wife, insinuating that she was ‘alt-right’ because she had the word “cowabunga” in her Instagram bio. Garga’s wife is Mexican-American, and she likes the Ninja Turtles, like millions of people.

Overall, we think it’s crazy that these conspiracy theories have been able to proliferate. It really shows the power that a demented troll on the internet can have.

We’ve seen our community rally behind us, and we appreciate that — it’s obvious to them, as well to anyone we’ve worked with over the past year (not to mention anyone who has known us our whole lives) that this is all nonsense. We appreciate all the love and support.

Thanks,

Gordon, Garga, Tomato, and Sass

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