U.S. Government Sues Sports Apparel Retailer Fanatics for Racial Discrimination

by Hannah Abrams

 Sports apparel company Fanatics is at the center of a major racial discrimination lawsuit. | Credit:  Getty Images  by Robin Marchant

Sports apparel company Fanatics is at the center of a major racial discrimination lawsuit. | Credit: Getty Images by Robin Marchant

Sports apparel company Fanatics, who recently inked a huge licensing deal with the NFL, is in major hot water this week. According to Bloomberg, the U.S. government is suing the company for racial discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the suit yesterday in Florida district court. The suit alleges that the company repeatedly subjected a former employee, a black man, to discrimination while he was employed at the company's Jacksonville headquarters.

Specifically, the employee said a team leader used the n-word, while other colleagues and superiors would make comments like "I'm not racist but a lot of you [black] guys can't read" and "Africans in Europe know their place, but not in the United States," reported Bloomberg.

In addition, other Fanatics employees stated the workplace is racially divided, and black and white employees are treated differently. A former operations administrator said minorities at the company are "treated like uneducated slave labor," according to the lawsuit.

But the Michael Rubin-owned company isn't going down without a fight.

“Fanatics is committed to treating all employees fairly and takes complaints like this very seriously,” the company said in a statement. “We deny any wrongdoing and look forward to vigorously defending these claims in court.”

If Fanatics can't prove its innocence, it spells huge trouble for the company. Its NFL and MLB partnerships certainly hang in the balance, as well as its college partnerships. We will keep you updated as the lawsuit plays out in court.

Lacoste adopts temporary logo to help endangered species

by David Blank

 Lacoste's limited-edition endangered species polo shirts.

Lacoste's limited-edition endangered species polo shirts.

Lacoste temporarily replaced its polo shirts' crocodile logo with the images of 10 endangered species to help counter the threat of extinction.

The shirts, which are part of a limited run supporting the "Save Our Species" campaign that launched during Paris Fashion Week on March 1, have sold out.

Replacing the crocodile above the left breast of the shirt are the Gulf of California porpoise, the Burmese roofed turtle, Sumatran tiger, the Anegada ground iguana and the northern sportive lemur, among others.

The French clothing company calibrated the number of shirts produced for each series to the population of the remaining animals in the wild. Of the 1,775 shirts available, the Gulf of California porpoise had the smallest print run, with just 30 shirts available.

    The Anegada iguana, by contrast, was the most available, with 450 editions. Proceeds went to International Union for Conservation of Nature, an international advocacy organization working to protect nature that sponsored the campaign.

    "Together these rare reptiles, birds and mammals champion the plight of all known threatened species," IUCN said in a statement.

    The US Fish & Wildlife Service has placed 1,459 animals on its threatened and endangered list.

    Wildlife expert Jeff Corwin lauded Lacoste's efforts and said he hoped it would inspire other companies to take on similar projects.

    "It's a great start and I'm hoping it's just the beginning and inspires other companies to follow suit," Corwin told CNN. "Maybe Jaguar will do something for jaguars. Ram trucks maybe will start protecting big horn sheep."

    "Generating awareness is equally important to fundraising because in order to solve the problem you need to understand the challenges," he added.

    Lacoste's crocodile logo was introduced in 1936, and the company has never before sold shirts featuring other animals.

    Hops & Hair Metal: Brewery Partners With Legendary Rock Band

    by Joan Chaykin

    A popular ’80s band who titled their second album High and Dry is going for something decidedly different with its latest promo.

    Def Leppard, the U.K.-based, heavy-metal band whose hits include Love Bites and Pour Some Sugar on Me, have rocked onto a new stage by teaming up with Seattle-based Elysian Brewing to create a custom ale, Def Leppard Pale.



    According to Elysian, the beer was “brewed to fuse the infamous malt bodies of British ales with the mysteria of Pacific Northwest hops.” The beer is being sold on the band’s co-headlining tour with Journey this summer.

    The 16-ounce can design of Def Leppard Pale is a tribute to the band’s best-selling platinum album Hysteria that sold over 25 million copies worldwide, and is co-branded with both the band’s and brewer’s names.

    The band and the brewery teamed up in a YouTube promo video to detail how beer and rock go “hand-in-hand.”

    In a Drinks Business article, Elysian’s co-founder Joe Bisacca stated: “We had the idea that the beer should celebrate something of the band and something of us. The best of British beer is the malt body and that beautiful malt balance. And the best thing about American beer is the citrus, piney hops. So we’ve taken those two aspects, put them together and come up with a beer you can actually drink a few of – 6% abv you can drink all night long.”


    Nike celebrates two World Cup finalists


    MOSCOW, July 12 (Reuters) - The World Cup final on Sunday will not only be an all-European affair but an all-Nike match. For the first time in its history, the American sportswear manufacturer will be providing the kit for the two finalists, France and Croatia.

    The result is a significant victory for Nike, as rival Adidas is a long-standing and prominent partner of FIFA and the World Cup.

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    "We've had three of the four teams make the semi-finals and then two of our teams made the finals, which is a first time for Nike," Elliot Hill, Nike president of consumer and marketplace, told Reuters.

     Team France

    Team France

     Super Eagles 2018 FIFA World Cup Team Croatia

    Super Eagles 2018 FIFA World Cup Team Croatia

    "We've been in the game of football for over 20 years, and it's the first time that we've had an all-Nike final with both teams wearing Nike."

    Adidas sponsored 12 of the 32 teams at the World Cup finalists compared to Nike's 10 but saw one of its most prominent clients Germany knocked out in the group stage while eight of its teams fell in the round of 16.

    "In addition to the kits, we've had great success with our players," said Hill.

    "We have over 65 percent of the athletes wearing Nike football boots. That's more than all the other brands combined. So it's been a really successful World Cup for us, on and off the pitch."

    Of the other manufacturers, Puma supplied kits for four teams, New Balance for two and Errea, Hummel, Uhlsport and Umbro one apiece -- the latter being the distinctive Peru shirt with the red diagonal stripe. (Reporting by Catherine Koppel; Editing by Christian Radnedge) 

    The New York Times' $300 T-shirt Is How Not to Promote a Brand

    By Hannah Abrams

    Sometimes, we feel like we are screaming this message from the highest mountain top, and yet, brands continue to ignore our cries. But for those of you listening: Know your brand, and know your audience. There's clearly a disconnect in The New York Times latest promotional apparel, and we're not quite sure how anyone thought this was a good idea.

    We told you last week that The New York Times hoped to offset its digital struggles by launching a merchandise store. To us, that made sense—branded merchandise is a great way to promote brand awareness, and of course, generate some extra profits.

    But The New York Times bit off a lot more than it could chew with its new $300 slogan T-shirt, and the internet is very confused. According to Vice, The New York Times collaborated with luxury Japanese brand Sacai to create a very expensive slogan tee for purchase at Saks Fifth Avenue.

    "Truth. It's more important now than ever," the T-shirt reads. On the back of the T-shirt, there's lines from an old 2017 ad for the newspaper with gems like, "The truth is hard," "The truth has no agenda" and "The truth pulls no punches."

    We get it. Truth is great. But the truth is, $300 is way too much for a T-shirt. Not to mention, the hoodie version with the same text is going for $420. For a newspaper fighting a battle to prove that journalism is a good and vital part of democracy—a public service, even—putting its logo on a luxury T-shirt few people can actually afford is not a good look. It may even be counterproductive.

    This is simply the latest brand to completely misread its audience. Last year, we watched as Barneys and Nordstrom totally missed the mark on their new apparel offerings, and we're sure The New York Times won't be the last one either. For those of you working in promotional apparel, make sure your client has a thorough understanding of its end-users, because promotions like this can easily turn a brand's intended audience against it.

    Elon Musk, Farting Unicorns and Copyright Law: A Promo Story

    by Tom Higgins

    Yes, you read that headline right. Allow us to explain.

    Back in February 2017, in a since-deleted tweet, Elon Musk posted a photo of a mug featuring the image of a cartoon unicorn farting electricity into an electric car, calling it “maybe my favorite mug ever.” Tom Edwards, the Colorado-based potter who made the mug, was delighted to receive recognition for his work, especially from someone as influential as Musk.

    This delight didn’t last too long, however, as Edwards discovered a month later that Musk had posted another since-deleted tweet featuring a copy of his unicorn cartoon to promote Tesla’s new sketch pad feature, which allows drivers to draw on the car’s built-in touchscreen.

    As it turns out, Tesla was also using the image as a small icon for its operating system and would even come to turn it into a Christmas card.

    Despite admitting an appreciation for Musk’s sustainable business ventures, Edwards has decided that he needed to defend his ownership of the Wallyware brand of cartoon-adorned pottery he has been working on for nearly 40 years.

    On May 23 of this year, Edwards’ lawyer sent a letter to Tesla’s general counsel in an attempt to reach an amicable, mutual resolution to the obvious instance of copyright violation. Tesla has yet to respond.

    In the meantime, however, Musk found time to argue with the artist’s daughter online, claiming that the decision to use the cartoon was not his choice and arguing that, if anything, Tesla’s use of the farting unicorn had only boosted Edwards’ mug sales.

    As of Wednesday, the image was still being used in Tesla’s cars. Edwards reportedly intends to continue with his efforts to reach out to Musk, though no lawsuit has yet been filed. For him, it’s all about making sure that artists get paid for their work, especially in cases where corporations insist on using their designs without permission.

    “I realize my farting unicorn is not as serious as whistleblowers,” he admitted to the Guardian. “But honestly, it’s all about integrity.”

    While we freely and fully acknowledge Mr. Musk's promotional prowess (flamethrowerslife-sized lego brickshats), we can't support copyright infringement of any kind, especially when the scales are as unbalanced as they are here. We'll keep you posted as this saga unfolds, if for no reason other than the fact that we relish the opportunity to write about farting unicorns whenever possible.