T-shirt Is Medium For Message

February 04, 1994|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,Sun Staff Writer

Matthew Hart proudly defies those who oppose a professional football stadium in Laurel -- and he's making a few bucks on his stance, to boot.

Since the week of Christmas, the 32-year-old evening chef at Ma's Kettle restaurant in Savage has sold about 200 T-shirts bearing the message, "I support the Laurel Redskins 1996," charging $10 a shirt.

"It was more started as a gimmick than a business venture," said Mr. Hart, whose workplace is just a few miles north of the proposed Laurel stadium site for the Redskins. "I sold 50 shirts in one day."

Since Dec. 20, Mr. Hart, a Columbia resident, has had customers pouring into Ma's Kettle begging for the yellow shirts with Burgundy lettering surrounding a football.

Mr. Hart, a lifelong Redskins fan, is undaunted by the fact that another would-be entrepreneur who attempted a similar venture ended up in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

That case involved Roy Becker, an amateur T-shirt marketer, who was hauled into court in 1992 for alleged trademark infringement over T-shirts with the name "Camden Yards." Mr. Becker argued that he applied for that trademark before the state filed its own trademark application for "Oriole Park at Camden Yards."

He lost the trademark case -- but won the right to keep the $40,000 he made from selling the shirts.

So far, Mr. Hart has managed to avoid such complications.

He hasn't invested much money in his project, for one thing, just "grocery money." And he's given away too many of the shirts to make any serious profit -- just $30 to $40 to date, he estimates.

"I would never be a good business man," Mr. Hart said.

The idea for the T-shirts came up during a conversation last December with representatives from the restaurant's T-shirt maker, Chris-Mar Sports, an Edgewater company. Mr. Hart suggested that the store representatives print up some "Laurel Redskins" T-shirts.

On Dec. 20, the store delivered 50 shirts to Ma's Kettle for Mr. Hart, with his logo, "I support the Laurel Redskins 1996."

The shirts cost Mr. Hart about $6.75 a shirt for the printing. Mr. Hart said he tries to sell enough shirts to break even and gives the rest away.

Redskins representatives, who are aware of the shirts, say they don't have a problem with Mr. Hart's enterprise, but add that the rights to any name would belong to the National Football League.

They also note that, at this point, there is no such team as the "Laurel Redskins" in the NFL.

For his part, Mr. Hart says he is just trying to win support for construction of a Redskins stadium in Laurel.

"I've had Dallas fans coming in [Ma's Kettle] and saying, 'I hate the Redskins, but I would love to have the stadium here,' " Mr. vTC Hart said, adding that two such men bought a couple of his shirts.

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