This one seemed pretty tactless.
With Kevin Ware cleared to join his teammates in Atlanta, the university and its business partner, Adidas, have already gone about a way to rally for him. In the form a T-shirt. That costs $25.
No indication on Louisville's website that any of the proceeds from these shirts -- featuring Ware's No. 5 -- where the money will go. UPDATE, 10:40 p.m.: But WDRB.com reported late Wednesday night that the university (thankfully) passed on all royalty rights.
Louisville sports information contacted CBSSports.com as well, and shared the following: "According to Associate Athletic Director Brent Seebohm, UofL proactively decided to waive any traditional university licensing royalties revenue connected to the #5 graphic to be worn by the team on court. The "Ri5e to the Occasion" shirt was created as a respectful tribute to honor Kevin within NCAA trademarked apparel parameters, and allow fans to rally around the team. Because of that, Adidas is contributing a portion of every sell to the University's scholarship fund."
Early Thursday morning Adidas also sent along a statement:
“The ‘Ri5e to the Occasion' T-shirt was created at the request of the team and university. We are happy to support Louisville fans who wish to honor a player and rally around the team during the most important moments of their season. The shirt was intended as a respectful tribute and because of that a portion of every sale will go to the university's scholarship fund.”
It's an endearing idea for a shirt, and it'd be fine -- if only Ware saw some of the cut. Fans will buy these because it's a way to support the team and a way to connect beyond simple fandom at the Final Four. Or from the comfort of their couches and local bars. Support Kevin and the Cards and chase that title!
I get it, and it's smart marketing. Plenty will purchase the shirts without realizing the background/unfairness behind the concept: Adidas is making money off the image and emotional connection to the most powerful story in sports/at the Final Four.
Even with some of the portion going to good causes, Adidas will still at some level earn coin because Kevin Ware snapped the living hell out of his right leg.
It clashes with the NCAA's idea of amateurism. This is just another case of many having an opportunity to profit off a college athlete except said athlete. And when you know this player just went through one of the most gruesome injuries in the history of college basketball, it comes off as a little bit tone deaf and in bad taste. It just does. The idea for the shirt is nice. The intentions might have been in the right place, but given the nature of the NCAA's rules, it also comes off as oblivious to low-hanging opportunities for modern criticism at the NCAA.
Blame Adidas, blame the NCAA. Don't blame Louisville, now that we know the school's position. But regardless, this doesn't seem the right move on the whole.