Make us your home page
Instagram

Trayvon Inc: Florida teen's case turns into brand

Andre Parker of Atlanta wears a T-shirt Monday outside the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta in memory of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17-year-old who was killed by a Florida neighborhood watch captain while returning from a convenience store last month.

Associated Press photos

Andre Parker of Atlanta wears a T-shirt Monday outside the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta in memory of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17-year-old who was killed by a Florida neighborhood watch captain while returning from a convenience store last month.

MIAMI — From the T-shirt and hoodie sales to trademarking slogans like "Justice for Trayvon" to the pass-the-hat rallies that bring in thousands, the case of an unarmed black teenager killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer is quickly turning into an Internet-fueled brand.

Websites are hawking key chains bearing Trayvon Martin's likeness. His parents have bought two trademarks, saying they hope to raise money to help other families struck by tragedy. Trayvon clothes, bumper stickers, buttons and posters are up for grabs on eBay.

Vendors selling Martin T-shirts and hoodies have become fixtures at rallies in Sanford, the Central Florida town where Martin was shot last month. At one Sanford rally this week, a man had a variety of T-shirts laid out on the ground as marchers went by, yelling out, "I've got every size!"

The Martin shooting by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmernan, who says he shot the 17-year-old Miami teen in self-defense, has inflamed racial tensions across the country, brought out thousands for rallies, prompted a civil rights probe and a personal reference to the case by President Barack Obama.

A phenomenon on that scale is bound to be commercialized, said Donna Hoffman, a marketing professor at the University of California-Riverside.

"People can start to wear their feelings and emotions. It makes sense, even if there's a profit motive," Hoffman said. "There's a legitimate interest in sharing the pain, and these products do that."

Van Johnson, who designs T-shirts and other apparel in Charlotte, N.C., said he initially wanted to come up with something for his 12-year-old son to show solidarity with Martin's supporters. He produced a color drawing based on a photograph of Martin wearing a hoodie, which the teenager was wearing on the night he was killed.

"I really don't expect to make more than $200 at the most," Johnson said. "I'm happy some people bought my products, that way a few people will have a very nice design on their shirt or hoodie to show their support."

Karrie Muhammad, who runs Young Nation Apparel in St. Louis, is selling a separate hoodie for $35 with the words "Please Don't Shoot Me I Only Have Skittles And A Drink!!!" Martin was returning from a convenience store with the candy and iced tea when he was confronted by Zimmerman.

"We really just kind of put the shirt out there this week. It's not necessarily profit at all," Muhammad said. "I wanted to bring some awareness to the issue. I felt it would be a good way to expose the store, to get our name out there."

Zimmerman, 28, who has a white father and Hispanic mother, has not been charged. Martin's parents have demanded he be arrested. The U.S. Justice Department has launched a probe to look for possible civil rights violations; a special state prosecutor is also investigating. Jackelyn Bernard, spokeswoman for special prosecutor Angela Corey, said Wednesday the investigation could take weeks and said it's unclear if a grand jury will be empaneled.

Hoffman said it's difficult to gauge how the Trayvon sales might stack up against those from similar cases, such as the 1992 Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King beating, because those were before the explosion of Internet marketing.

"Anyone can do it with any image," she said.

Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, headed off potential profit-seekers by filing trademark applications last week for the words "Justice For Trayvon" and "I Am Trayvon." The applications say the slogans may be used in digital media formats including CDs and DVDs. A family attorney said Wednesday the purpose is mainly to prevent others from exploiting Martin's image.

"It wasn't to make money off Trayvon's name, it was to stop the exploitation of Trayvon's name," said the attorney, Natalie Jackson. "We wanted this family to own their child's legacy."

A sign company called FamilyGraphix decided this week to pull its Martin-related decals after learning of Fulton's move. One such decal, which was to sell for $8, said "Don't Shoot Me, All I Have Is A Bag of Skittles."

Johnson, the T-shirt designer, questioned Fulton's move.

"You would think the parents of Trayvon Martin would encourage the spreading of their son's name and image," he said. "As a parent of four, I personally would welcome any and all exposure. I would want my son's name everywhere."

Trayvon Inc: Florida teen's case turns into brand 03/28/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 10:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. One of the best places for investing in a rental house is in Tampa Bay

    Real Estate

    Two Tampa Bay ZIP Codes are drawing national attention.

    . If you're looking to invest in a house to rent out, few places are better than  ZIP Code 34607 in Hernando County's Spring Hill area, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.
[LANCE ROTHSTEIN   |  Times
 file photo]

  2. Tampa Chamber of Commerce announces small business winners

    Business

    TAMPA — The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce selected the winners of the 2017 Small Business of the Year Awards at a ceremony Wednesday night at the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. More than 600 attendees celebrated the accomplishments of Tampa Bay's small business community.

    Vincent Cassidy, president and CEO of Majesty Title Services, was named Outstanding Small Business Leader of the Year by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

  3. International array of artists chosen as finalists for pier project

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — A diverse group of six artists will compete for a chance to install their work at the city's multimillion-dollar Pier District, expected to open in early 2019.

  4. Gourmet food fight between top chefs raises $200,000

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG — The chefs came armed with their secret ingredients — pork rinds, truffle butter, pork bellies.

    (From left to right) Chefs Ryan Mitchell, Michael Buttacavoli, Ted Dorsey and Matthew Brennan compete during Tampa Bay Food Fight at The Coliseum in St. Petersburg on Tuesday. The event features chefs from the Tampa Bay area and benefitted Metropolitan Ministries. EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times
  5. HSN star Joy Mangano promotes new book: Inventing Joy

    Retail

    ST. PETERSBURG — After more than 30 years, Joy Mangano knows a thing or two about promoting products. Now she's promoting herself.

    Inventor and entrepreneur Joy Mangano is releasing her first new book, Inventing Joy on Nov. 7. [TIERRA SMITH | Times]