A popular retail chain surrendered to the Marines on Tuesday, following a warning from the Corps to quit using its name to sell Memorial Day merchandise.
By late afternoon, Lids.com — part of the larger Indianapolis-based Hats Inc. that includes LIDS Sports Group and Locker Room outlets — had abandoned a recently-unveiled online ad campaign.
“Honor the U.S. Marine Corps brave men and women with this authentic New York Yankees Giancarlo Stanton Majestic MLB Men’s USMC Cool Base Jersey,” read one ad. “This camouflage-themed jersey will be worn by the New York Yankees during 2018 Memorial Day weekend games.”
Shortly after The San Diego Union-Tribune showed copies of the ads to Marine officials, Major League Baseball launched a probe into the campaign, too.
By early evening on the East Coast, Lids had removed all online references to the Corps.
Marine spokesman Maj. Brian T. Block told the Union-Tribune by email that the service “should not have been used in the promotional language on the website.”
“We do not have a license relationship with either the company selling that product, nor the MLB,” he added. “The USMC Trademark Office will contact the parties involved to relay our position that USMC trademarks may not be used in the promotion of an unlicensed product.”
The Lids campaign mentioned the Marine Corps in selling jerseys priced between $100 and $120 each that would be worn over the Memorial Day weekend by the Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners and Detroit Tigers.
The jerseys featured stars such as Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, Giants catcher Buster Posey and Robinson Canoe, the Mariners second baseman serving an 80-day suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
None of these players served in the Marines although Hall of Famers such as Ted Williams, Rod Carew, Roberto Clemente, Eddie Collins and Ted Lyons did.
A baseball fan, Marine commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller last year tossed ceremonial first pitches for both the Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals.
Jeff Pearson, senior vice president of e-commerce and marketing at Lids, called the Union-Tribune to say that the online ad campaign might have been launched in error and he was investigating.
As a reseller, the company often receives the right to vend trademarked merchandise from licensed companies, he added.
LIDS Sports Group operates more than 1,350 mall-based, airport, street level and factory outlet locations in the U.S. and Canada.
LIDS and its affiliates are subsidiaries of Genesco Inc., a publicly-traded apparel and licensed-merchandising firm headquartered in Nashville with nearly $3 billion in annual revenues.
Major League Baseball officials in New York told the Union-Tribune that they also were investigating but insisted teams had no prior knowledge of the language in the ad campaign.
Club caps made by New Era for the weekend games don’t bear any military insignia and MLB’s online promotional materials don’t mention any of the armed forces by name.
Franchises plan to hold special pre-game ceremonies at stadiums nationwide throughout the weekend and also participate in a moment of silent rememberance on Memorial Day to honor troops lost at home and abroad.
The Toronto Blue Jays will wear four maple leafs on the right side of their caps to honor the four branches of Canada’s military, too.
Like the Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force and Army, the Marine Corps runs a trademark licensing office so that it can control how its logos, slogans and marks are used.
Headquartered in Virginia, the Marine Corps Trademark Office owns the eagle, globe and anchor device, “USMC” and other iconographic elements of the service. Even the digital camouflage pattern on Marine uniforms — called “MARPAT” — is trademarked.
Those trademarks also allow the Marines to generate licensing revenues to boost morale, welfare and recreation programs worldwide, officials say.
Lids also is running a promotion offering for $28 two “NCAA teamwork” caps emblazoned with bulldogs wearing the Corps’ famous eagle, globe and anchor insignia.
The Corps doesn’t participate directly in National Collegiate Athletic Association events, although the U.S. Naval Academy commissions some midshipmen as Marine officers.
Block asked Lids to look into that product and Pearson told the Union-Tribune that he would investigate it, too.