McLanahan’s Seeking to Profit From Unlicensed Blue Out Shirts
This weekend marks the second annual Blue Out game, an event organized to raise awareness and funds for child abuse prevention. Unfortunately, it seems as though not all State College-area businesses are on board with the organization’s altruistic, non-profit mission. McLanahan’s, Penn State’s premier destination for overpriced groceries and Silas Redd jerseys, is marketing its own unlicensed “Blue Out” shirt for this weekend’s game against Temple, seemingly in direct competition with the official shirt offered by the event’s organizer, Blue Out.
In July of this year, Blue Out (@BlueOut) — an organization founded by Penn State graduate students Stuart Shapiro and Laura March — announced its intention to establish the football “Blue Out” as an annual tradition, given the year’s prior events involving the Sandusky child sex abuse scandal. Blue, of course, is the nationally-recognized color of child abuse prevention. The idea is that by wearing blue to the game in a show of solidarity, Penn State could demonstrate its collective commitment to tackling the larger societal issue of child abuse.
In addition to organizing the Blue Out in partnership with the Penn State Athletic Department, the student organizers Shapiro and March designed a Blue Out t-shirt and had it officially licensed by Penn State. The shirt was offered to retailers free of charge under two conditions: they would allow for $6 in production costs, and donate the rest ($9, for a total retail price of $15) to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR).
The official shirt is currently being sold at the Penn State Bookstores, in the HUB, downtown at the Family Clothesline, Neebo, and Lion’s Pride, and elsewhere across the state. However, not among this list is McLanahan’s, which was the excusive retailer for the official shirt of last November’s inaugural Blue Out.
Instead, McLanahan’s has stocked an alternative t-shirt produced by the company Smack Apparel, which you may remember from the NCAA t-shirt non-story earlier this summer. Here is their Blue Out shirt being advertised on the College Ave storefront:
The banner was first seen at the beginning of this week, ostensibly in anticipation of potential sales before the Blue Out game. It advertises a “Blue Out” shirt with a blue ribbon and the slogan “Support a Great Cause” tacked on below.
It’s easy to see how this shirt could be confused with the one being offered by the Blue Out organization, which also supports a great cause in PCAR. We contacted McLanahan’s supplier and manufacturer of the t-shirt, Smack Apparel, for more information regarding this potentially misleading alternative t-shirt.
The president and owner of the Florida-based Smack Apparel, Wayne Curtiss, explained that his company was “not trying to take away from any other organization’s effort to raise awareness or provide financial support to victims of child abuse.”
“We came out with the shirt this summer in an effort to help Penn Staters heal, my wife and her friends being [Penn Staters themselves]” said Curtiss. “We also wanted some good to come out of it, so we identified the Penn State Hershey Campus Victims of Child Abuse fund [for donations]”.
In addition, Curtiss reiterated his company’s support for State College-area charities, including THON, an interest explained by his wife’s status as a Penn State graduate. However, when asked of how much of the proceeds would go to charity, Curtiss stated that he was not sure, as it is at McLanahan’s discretion on how much money it wishes to donate to charity.
When we reached out to McLanahan’s on three separate occasions — twice in person and once over the phone — management declined to comment on their Blue Out shirts. However, an unnamed source told us that upon asking a general employee how much of the t-shirt proceeds would go to charity, the employee responded, “Probably a dollar or two.”
Whether that amount is accurate or not is unknown, but what is perplexing is McLanahan’s unwillingness to discuss the issue. What is there to hide if the shirt proceeds are truly going to a charitable cause?
Here is what we know about both shirts:
- Cost: $15
- Licensed by Penn State
- Sold at official university bookstores across the state, including the one in the HUB
- Also sold at the Family Clothesline, Neebo, and Lion’s Pride
- All proceeds (minus the allowance for production costs) are being donated to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape
- Cost: $15.99
- Unlicensed by Penn State
- An unknown portion of the proceeds will be donated to Penn State Hershey Campus Victims of Child Abuse fund
- The shirt is being sold at other locations downtown, but only McLanahan’s is advertising it as the Blue Out shirt
We obviously know less about the McLanahan’s option. Granted, Smack Apparel confirmed that an undetermined amount of the proceeds will be going to charity, though McLanahan’s has been unwilling to disclose exactly how much.
At worst, they are misleading customers by deliberately failing to properly distinguish itself from the official, not-for-profit t-shirt. At best, they are still supporting a charity with the sales, but still profiting from the Blue Out name. Of course, we can’t know for sure, given McLanahan’s unwillingness to disclose that information.
If you want to know exactly how much of your money will be going to charity, or if you want to buy the shirt for the sole purpose of supporting a sexual abuse charity (PCAR), you can know for sure that McLanahan’s won’t be selling the shirt you want.