Feb 10, 2012
A colleague who has heard me tell stories about the odd t-shirts that end up in Haiti sent me a link to an article on mental_floss titled "What Happens to the Losing Team’s Championship Shirts?" The piece describes how sports paraphernalia companies “disappear” shirts, hats and other items that proclaim the wrong team as winners. They donate them to relief organization for distribution oversees to people in need. This also happens with misprints and over production.
In the case of Super Bowl XLVI, according to the post, at least some of the un-marketable merchandise produced by NFL-licensed companies will be donated to World Vision, a large international faith based relief-development organization. Since World Vision operates in Haiti, we may soon see New England Patriots Super Bowl XLVI Champs shirts on the streets of Port au Prince. The shirts and hats’ misinformation will likely go unnoticed since soccer—the world’s football—is king here.
Indeed, we do see a lot of odd shirts in Haiti. This is not just due to losing teams, but also the reselling of baled second-hand clothing. My favorite sighting was a young, very macho looking teenage boy sporting a shirt bearing the warning, “I have PMS and a handgun”. I have also seen an older gentleman wearing a shirt proudly announcing “Baby on Board”. These shirts were obviously chosen for their color or utility—not their slogans.
Not everything about this clothing is funny or even helpful. The donated baled clothing is a two edged sword. While it does provide inexpensive clothes, it also puts local tailors and sewers out of work and undermines the local economy in other more subtle ways. It’s a gift horse that needs to be looked in the eye—and has.