Unofficial Humboldt Broncos merchandise sold online, but do profits support victims?
Published Friday, April 13, 2018 7:59PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, April 13, 2018 8:00PM EDT
As a crowdfunding campaign for the families of the Humboldt Broncos surges past $11 million, there are concerns that some online retailers may be trying to exploit the tragedy by stamping the team’s official logo on unofficial merchandise with no plans to donate any of the funds.
In the wake of the tragedy, the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League is selling official Humboldt Strong T-shirts through a Regina-based retailer. Every dollar raised goes toward the SJHL Assistance Program, which is raising money to offer mental health assistance and counselling for SJHL players.
But an even wider selection of Humboldt Strong merchandise is available through online retailers. The difference: none of those sales make it clear where the money goes.
CTV News found 52 different designs for Humboldt Broncos merchandise and clothing online. Of those, only one vendor states that a portion of sales will go toward families of the 16 victims who died.
On Teepublic, an online retailer that allows independent artists to upload designs and make commissions off sales, 18 different Broncos-related designs were posted, including slogans “We are Humboldt Strong” and “Our Thoughts and Prayers.”
The designs can be stamped on coffee mugs, hoodies, laptop cases, tote bags, stickers, notebooks and baby-sized onesies. Prices range from $2 for a sticker to $31 for an adult hoodie.
Of the 18 designs for sale, only one artist indicates that “a portion” of sales will go toward fundraising efforts for families of the victims. However, it does not say how much.
Another artist included a link to the GoFundMe fundraiser on their design “if you want to donate.”
At least three of the “Humboldt Strong” designers also have designs inspired by the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. for sale. Another sells shirts with the slogan “Rest In Peace Sudan.”
It is unclear how much Teepublic is making on sales of Humboldt Broncos merchandise, or whether Teepublic plans to donate any money toward fundraising efforts. The company did not respond to CTV’s multiple requests for comment.
The company pays its artists a commission for each product sold through the site. For example, for a $14 T-shirt, the company pays artists $2 to $4.
Another online retailer is selling Humboldt Broncos merchandise at an even higher rate. Teezily, which similarly allows independent artists to sell their own designs through the online platform, has 34 Broncos-related designs for sale.
The products feature images of hockey players with angel wings, hockey sticks and the slogan “We are all Broncos.” The merchandise ranges from $26 for a kid’s T-shirt up to $50 for a hoodie.
None of those websites make any mention of whether money will go toward the victims.
Teezily did not respond to CTV’s questions about where the money is going, how much has been raised or if any funds will go back to the victims of the crash.
There is no connection between the Humboldt Broncos and the unofficial online merchandise, a Humboldt Broncos spokesperson confirmed.
The spokesperson added that plenty of companies with good intentions are selling merchandise to help the team. A sign company has started making Humboldt Strong stickers, and another retailer is selling hats. Money from those sales is going toward the team, the spokesperson said.
But the spokesperson highlighted another concern. In the hours after the bus crash, as the hashtag “Humboldt Strong” was circulating, the web domains for humboldtstrong.com and humboldtstrong.ca were both purchased.
Both sites remain blank. However, for a fee, website domain registrars can reach out to the domain holder to see if a sale can be arranged.
In a statement to CTVNews.ca, the Humboldt Broncos said its priorities remain on the victims of the crash as funerals are underway.
“The Humboldt Broncos is an organization that has been devastated in a myriad of ways. We are aware and infinitely grateful for the outpouring of support from our community, province, nation and around the world,” the team said in a statement.
“As it has been from the beginning, virtually all of our focus remains solely on supporting all families impacted by this tragedy, but right now particularly those 16 families laying their loved ones to rest.”
Official merchandise for sale
Mike Yager is the co-founder and CEO of Spotlight Sport & Corporate Wear in Humboldt. He says his company has long had a relationship with the Broncos, which is why he offered to design a T-shirt and hoodie with the Broncos logo and the words “We Are Humboldt Strong.”
Yager plans to donate proceeds from the sales of the shirts back to the players' families.
But he says he finds it “disturbing” how many vendors and online stores have popped up that are creating similar shirts with no plans to donate any of the proceeds to the families.
The Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League is also selling #HumboldtStrong T-shirts through Regina-based street-wear company 22 Fresh. All proceeds will go to the SJHL Assistance Program.
The league reached out to 22Fresh to make the official “Humboldt Strong” merchandise featuring the team’s green and yellow colours. The shirts feature the slogans “We will always have your back” and “Saskatchewan Strong.”
Demand for the apparel has been overwhelming, said 22Fresh president Kip Simon.
“We’re working around the clock with our manufacturers in making the demand in the thousands come to life,” Simon told CTVNews.ca.
Simon said he was aware of other vendors unaffiliated with the team selling merchandise, but did not want to speculate on their motives or whether they were profiting of the tragedy.
With files from CTVNews.ca's Angela Mulholland