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Trayvon Inc: Fla teen's case turns into brand

Steven Jonhson, 3, holds an enlarged banner of “Skittles” candy as he joins Los Angeles community members at a “Justice for Trayvon Martin hoodie rally” to protest the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was wearing a hoodie on the night he was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.

Steven Jonhson, 3, holds an enlarged banner of “Skittles” candy as he joins Los Angeles community members at a “Justice for Trayvon Martin hoodie rally” to protest the death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was wearing a hoodie on the night he was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.

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 Zimmerman, 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."

At rallies and church services, thousands of dollars in pledges have been made to help Fulton and Tracy Martin, Martin's father, pay expenses including travel to events in Washington and New York, Jackson said. At one early rally, the Rev. Al Sharpton asked people to make out checks to Fulton and put them in buckets that were passed around.

"Let's show the world we're going to finance our own movement," said Sharpton, who pledged $2,500 himself.

The case has had other benefits for involved organizations. More than 30,000 people signed an NAACP petition to Florida prosecutors in just a 24-hour period. Eric Wingerter, spokesman for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored people, says the organization hasn't used the case as a fundraising tool but has seen an uptick in memberships.

At some point, Hoffman said, the Trayvon Martin brand could wear thin if it's overused.

"People might feel, 'I'm sick of hearing about this.' That feeling could be accelerated if everywhere you turn, there are people wearing their hearts on their sleeve," Hoffman said. "All this merchandise out there will start to have a taint in the mind of the public."

Comments

missdaisy 2 years ago

This figures; everybody trying to profit off of this poor boys death. Jesse "love child" Jackson and Al "street punk" Sharpton were first to get their face time; and now Mama and Daddy want to get theirs.

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bubbavet 2 years ago

Again Duke rape case. It's all about money.

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VSU 2 years ago

It's not about justice, it's all about the moooonnnnneeeeeeyyyyyyy!!!

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VSU 2 years ago

I wouldn't pay a penny for any of the merchandise.

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agirl_25 2 years ago

Same with Al Tawana Brawley ("the white cops kidnapped and raped me and rubbed human feces on me") Sharpton case. He jumped the gun and made himself look like a bigger fool than he already was and it was all a lie cooked up by her. He came running faster than a boy rabbit when he thought he could get some TV time out of that story and the racist worm Spike Lee made a movie and alluded to the event (Do the Right Thing). The Weasel Sharpton and others were sued...HOORAY!!!! and had to pay a $345K judgement. I am sorry the child was killed, but this is not the time to be trying to make a buck off a tragic moment. They should all be ashamed...every single one of them, including the parents of the slain child.

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agirl_25 2 years ago

I have one more thing to say and then I will be done............I think it is disgusting that these people, especially the parents of all people, are hawking their child with a 4-year old picture on tee shirts and all kinds of merchandise. It makes him look like an angelic child when in fact he was a 17 year old teenager. Why do they do this? We know why.....to keep the public sympathy alive for the loss of their baby....well yes I know it must be horrible to lose a child but is it honest to use a 4-year old picture of a baby faced kid and let the public think that was the child that had to go up against the brute, Zimmerman, in the mug shot that is shown all the time? I am not for a minute defending what he did...he took a man's life......it was wrong.........but I am saying it is wrong to falsely show this picture and play on the sympathy of the public. Have any of you seen a recent picture of Trayvon? I found one, and not on Sharpton's MSNBC show....he has done everything to keep them off his show...knowing he can more easily incite anger if he keeps the picture of the innocent 13 year old on the news. He is using this tragic death and intentionally showing the photo of Martin at 13 and not at 17 to incite racial unrest and bigotry. He is just as wrong as George Zimmerman was in shooting the young man. Oh yes and let us not forget the $$$$$$$$$.

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TrixibelleBento 2 years ago

The article is right about one thing: I am tired of hearing about this. Let's move on to the next train wreck.

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coachjohnson42 2 years ago

I am not surprised the herald would post a story like this about this kid who got killed for nothing .......by trying to divert the attention away from the sanford police dept. who tried to cover up a killing and got caught.....thats all this story should be about. But then again, this is south georgia......and thats what people here like to read....

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joker581 2 years ago

They didn't "try to cover up a killing". They found it to be justified under Florida state law.

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tywebb 2 years ago

plus, they wanted to press charges, but the state prosecutor said no.

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Jacob 2 years ago

Wow. I did not know you were present when this death occurred. Tell us more of your eye witness account..... Or are you just guessing without any facts, yet again?

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coachjohnson42 2 years ago

No smarty pants...I didnt see it...but as I see it so far....Zimmerman should have been arrested. What logical reason can you state why he shouldnt have been?

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Jacob 2 years ago

Well, first of all, there is that whole "probable cause/ elements of evidence to support that a particular statute has been violated" thingy.....As you are lightning quick to point out whenever a person of color gets accused of wrongdoing in the good life city, why don't you just let the system run its course and due process play out? Or does that only count when the accused has skin color that matches yours?

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Amazed2 2 years ago

Talk about people making money off death. Skiddles Candy Company, I imagine is running around the clock to try to keep up with the Skiddles wants. Now you don't hear them complaining about copy rights and trademark infringement. In the defense of Skiddles Candy they did not ask for nor seek the national news media exposure. Since thought Travons mother has trademarked his name she will probably try to get Skiddles to make a Travon memorial bag of Skiddles or something. Guess I am shocked or maybe not that the boy is hardly gone from this earth and people especially his mother is trademarking his name to sell stuff such as book rights, movies, shirtsm CD's. I bet they come out with a Travon hoodie line of clothes too. All that stuff is just sick to me but hey when Al Sharpton and Jesse show up the Show Must Go On. I remember in 1994 when Jesse showed up here in Albany and tried to stir troube between the black community and the white community about the flood of 1994. He came here to say the white people in charge of the city purposely let black areas of the city flood to save white areas. Now guess what even most black people and local black churches thought he was nuts. Jesse's did not stay around long and try to run that story because most of the people black and white were working side by side in many cases sandbagging and cleaning up,etc. There was no way that any white man turned the ravage of the flood waters from God's rain onto black land to save white land. That was a crazy story that Jesse came to Albany to try to sell. He wanted to use one local black church to hold a rally and when the black pastor found out that Jesse's guys were going to charge $5 a head to get in for Jesse to speak he told Jesse's handlers to find another locations. Yes the Travon thing is a terrible waste black or white it is and would be a waste of life but Jesse and Al have other ajenda's to push.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years ago

I guess you all saw Randy Jackson wearing the "Skittles bead necklace" on the American Idol show last week? I know the candy company isn't behind that......but I threw up in my throat just a little bit when I saw it. And I like Randy. I just hate bad judgment. At the end of the day.....both people were probably to blame for part of the incident. But now it's too late due to the race baiting of the TV networks and the Professional Race Baiters who never worked a day in their lives and just live for situations like this. Meanwhile there have been two hundred more black kids killed somewhere in these United States (mostly by other black kids) and who has heard a peep about that??

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Justice4Moma 1 year, 12 months ago

This is news.And the Herald is in the news buissnes.Dont blame it on the Herald for what happened to this young man,they are just trying to let us know what is going on.If you all really want to get mad at someone,start with the Panthers,they are breaking every law there is,and no one is talking about them.They want to spill blood in the streets.Dont matter whos.That is terrorisim.And we are fighting against that all of this World,except there in Fla.

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Justice4Moma 1 year, 11 months ago

I was so glad to see the commission in Fla. standing up for the Cheif there because of all this with this case going on.I cant rember her name,but she was given it hell on TV.She said she was not going to let there town be destroyed by all thats going on there,and they would not except the cheif resenation.(i know it s not spelled right).Now if our town would stand up to gangs and drug dealers,and killers here,we would have our town back.It is there for the taking.We just have to take it back from those who think they own it.

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