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The Rays put a Wander Franco poster on a St. Pete sports bar. What now?

Managers at Ferg’s, a popular sports bar across from Tropicana Field, didn’t know the poster was going up.
 
Paige Paddock and Erin Matozel walk past an image of the the Rays’ Wander Franco that remains on a fence outside of Ferg's Sports Bar in downtown St. Petersburg. Franco is on the restricted list through at least Sunday as the MLB and authorities in his native Dominican Republic investigate whether he possibly had a relationship with one or more minors.
Paige Paddock and Erin Matozel walk past an image of the the Rays’ Wander Franco that remains on a fence outside of Ferg's Sports Bar in downtown St. Petersburg. Franco is on the restricted list through at least Sunday as the MLB and authorities in his native Dominican Republic investigate whether he possibly had a relationship with one or more minors. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Aug. 18, 2023|Updated Aug. 18, 2023

Ferg’s Sports Bar almost dodged the Wander Franco controversy. They don’t sell any of his merchandise, nor do they offer any food items using his name.

But there is the giant poster with Wander Franco’s face on it on the back of their building.

About a month ago, the Rays put the sign up unbeknownst to Ferg’s staff, said Jake Ferguson, a manager at the sports bar across from Tropicana Field.

Now, as allegations of Franco’s relationships with multiple minors reach a fever pitch, Ferguson is not sure if they’re even allowed to take it down.

“They’re the ones that put it up, completely,” he said. “I don’t know if (taking it down) voids something.”

This is the first year that the Rays partnered with Ferg’s, a longtime Rays supporter, to promote the team. When the first poster went up on the left side of the building saying, “Let’s go Rays,” management at Ferg’s was thrilled.

With this newer one, not so much.

The Franco poster is on the very back of the building, at a 1st Avenue South entrance staff don’t typically use, Ferguson said. It took a few days before they even noticed the sign had gone up.

Ferguson said he hasn’t been in contact with the Rays about taking the poster down since allegations involving Franco started coming to light Sunday. He is waiting for more certainty — some confirmation from the team, or Major League Baseball. Customers haven’t commented on the poster, either.

“Obviously if it’s true we’ll make sure it’s taken down,” he said. “We’re against that.”

As for other businesses, two local sports shops have avoided the Franco controversy altogether. Gulfshore Sports Store in Pinellas Park and Heads and Tails in Tampa never sold Franco merchandise to begin with, and the businesses haven’t seen a hit to Rays apparel sales writ large.

But Heads and Tails owner Stephen Sherman has noticed a sign of waning support for Franco: signed bats and other Franco-specific merchandise were going for $10 in a Rays Facebook group he’s a member of.

It’s practically a “fire sale,” he said.

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