See more of the story

During the past two-and-a-half years, Michael Otto has struggled with the idea that people who have loved Edina's hornet logo are angry with him.

Otto designed the scowling green hornet logo in 1981 and granted Edina schools, sports teams and booster clubs license to use his logo for more than 40 years. But in 2021 he alleged the school district violated his copyright, setting off more than a year of uncertainty over the future of a symbol that has bound together generations of Edina teams. Edina stopped using the beloved bug, and more than a few people blamed Otto, leaving nasty comments on his Facebook page, some of which he felt were threatening.

But now that the suit is over, Otto said he wants to forgive the people who blamed him.

"When I created the hornet logo, it was for my love for my high school," Otto said. He still feels love for Edina, though he now lives more than an hour west in Grove City. "I love my hometown. I love the community. I love my high school."

The feeling is mutual, said Edina High School's activities director Troy Stein, saying everyone is thrilled to be able to use the hornet again.

"We have a tremendous amount of admiration for him and what he's been able to design," Stein said.

The hornet buzzed into being when Edina East and Edina West high schools merged in the fall of 1981. Otto, a 1974 Edina East graduate, was one of several entrants in a hornet designs contest to create a consistent brand for the newly unified school. Until then, Otto said, Edina schools and sports used any old image of a wasp or bumblebee, but Otto liked the idea of a distinctive Edina hornet.

"I made what I would have been proud to wear," Otto said, who played football and basketball for Edina in high school. "I wanted it to be fierce."

Otto was not a trained designer — he spent much of his career as a hospital chaplain as well as a decade as a Hennepin County juvenile corrections officer — but he submitted his design and was excited when the students voted for his bug.

Until now, Otto let Edina use his image on T-shirts and other merchandise free of charge.

"I was just thrilled I had designed my high school logo," Otto said. The longevity of his design has made it all the more rewarding.

There have been other copyright disputes — including an incident in the early 1980s when Dayton's department store printed unauthorized Hornets sweatshirts — but the agreement between Otto and the schools hummed along for decades.

The dispute started in 2019, when Edina went to a third-party vendor to make hornet-adorned sweatshirts and T-shirts without first running it by Otto. In a federal copyright complaint, Otto said he told Edina it was violating its contract with him. But what really concerned him, he said, was the idea that some company might take advantage of Edina and not give the schools enough of the proceeds.

In 2021, a district spokeswoman said Otto's process restricted the number of vendors the school could choose from. Edina started replacing the stinger with a block yellow 'E' on new sports uniforms. The district even discussed hiring a designer to draw up a new logo, and it covered up the hornet.

Otto filed the lawsuit alleging copyright infringement and breach of contract in January 2022. The lawsuit settled in February, with Edina schools paying $150,000 to Otto and with Edina and Otto co-owning the logo design.

Otto does not plan to keep much of the $150,000 for himself — the only thing he bought, he said, was a puppy from a Hastings rescue, which he named Ozzy. The feeling he gets giving the money away more than makes up for feeling like his hometown hated him.

In the name of forgiveness — born as much of his deep Christian faith as his Edina pride — Otto has drawn up a new hornet design that he calls "baby Hornet." Otto said he is working with Edina gear shop General Sports to create new Edina merchandise with the smaller, cuter green bug.

He hopes putting his work out to the community again will help everyone move past the sting of the suit. It's a philosophy of openness he tries to live in all aspects of his life, Otto said.

"How do you get to know or trust or support people when you're trying to protect yourself?"