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Cville Pride Denied: PA hat manufacturer refuses merch order (UPDATED)

On the off chance you thought that discrimination against LGBTQ people was going away, we have some disappointingly predictable news.

Marilyn Drew Necci | September 7, 2017

The latest example of a business refusing to serve the LGBTQ community on the grounds that we’re “controversial” happened this week in Charlottesville. On September 7, the Charlottesville Pride Community Network released a blog post detailing their struggles getting hats made for the upcoming 6th Annual Cville Pride Festival. The company relies on t-shirt sales as a main funding source throughout the year, and therefore they spend a lot of money getting shirts and other apparel printed up.

This year, Cville Pride decided to get some hats made as well. Red Star Merchandise, the company that has handled their clothing merchandise needs since Cville Pride began, outsourced the festival’s hat order to a Hanover, PA-based hat company, Legacy Athletic.

Legacy refused the order. They replied to the request from Red Star with a response that began, “I am sorry for the delay, this is a design that we would not be able to produce.” They went on to explain their reasoning. “While Legacy does offer custom logos, we also carefully nurture and protect our brand. One of the ways we keep a positive connotation to the brand, is by avoiding doing any products with custom logos that might be deemed as controversial, political, offensive, etc. This does not in any way mean that we either support or do not support the organization making the request, but the reality is that in light of recent events in Charlottesville as well as the fact Gay Pride events are political activism; we respectfully decline this order. Again, I hope you can understand our position.”

Both Cville Pride and Red Star Merchandise were surprised and disappointed by this response. On their blog, the Charlottesville Pride Community Network wrote, “And there you have it. If you were needing a concrete example of how expressions of LGBTQ equality and pride remain at risk of facing rejection and denigration, here it is.” Red Star’s responded to word about the refusal by saying in part, “I don’t plan on sending them any further orders and will make others aware. Really disappointed about it.”

In response to the support shown by Red Star, Cville Pride said on their blog, “This is why a key piece to the Pride Festival is the expression of gratitude toward allies – showing appreciation of all those businesses, organizations, and individuals who support equality, who promote inclusion, who educate themselves, who listen, and who affirm us as our full selves.”

They also pointed out the continued need to be watchful against homophobic discrimination, writing, “To those of you who thought we were past this kind of discrimination, please know that while this explicit expression of homophobia is indeed shocking, it’s only the fact that what usually seethes beneath the surface has come up for air that’s new. We live with implicit and inferred bias and constant threat of legal recrimination every day.”

GayRVA has reached out to Legacy Athletic, specifically asking about their definition of Gay Pride events as “political activism.” We have not received a response as of press time; this article will be updated if we hear back from them.

The 6th Annual Cville Pride Festival takes place on Saturday, September 16 at the Sprint Pavilion in downtown Charlottesville. We’ll have a more extensive preview of this event coming soon.

UPDATE: We have received a response from Legacy Athletic. It is as follows:

Regarding our decision not to produce hats for the 2017 Cville Pride Festival, we want to emphasize Legacy is neither anti-gay nor discriminatory in any way. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our company is primarily a college and resort apparel brand. As our company’s popularity has grown, we continue to receive requests from all sorts of clubs, organizations and event planners with requests for put their logos on our branded apparel. We are working on new guidelines and policies to help us manage this influx of requests. Those guidelines and brand standards will ensure we stay committed to our core customer base of college and resort apparel. As a company, our policy is to not take orders that might be deemed controversial or political in nature. That doesn’t mean we agree or disagree with the organization’s mission, but that we simply want to remain neutral in all situations. -Legacy Athletic