Cubby Tees pulls ‘Chicago Stronger’ Blackhawks gear, protests ‘Twitter lynching’

Remember this moron? The one who decided to re-purpose the city of Boston’s mantra after the Boston Marathon bombings into cheap heat at a Toronto Maple Leafs playoff game against the Bruins?

The outcry over the “Toronto Stronger” sign was considerable, but it did spark a rather sensitive debate about teams using tragedies and patriotism for the purposes of rallying a fan base or striking an emotional chord during a sporting event. When does “Boston Strong” crossover from being an essential symbol for the city’s healing into something calculated and commercial? Does it matter if it does?

Cubby Tees is a Chicago-based sports apparel company that makes some awesome gear – seriously, we must possess this Patrick Kane shirt. In honor of the Stanley Cup Final between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins, they decided to tweak the “Boston Strong” slogan on a T-shirt that read “Chicago Stronger,” featuring the team’s iconic Indian feathers. There was another design that incorporated another aspect of the Hawks' logo.

Predictably, there was backlash. Boston Sports Then & Now reported on the shirt, and the controversy spread, writing “I thought most of the people in Chicago were behind Boston after the marathon bombings, well I guess that changes when we the Stanley Cup is involved."

It wasn't just from Boston fans, either. Ted Gruber of Chicago Now wrote:

As for Cubby Tees, if you had an ounce of class or soul you would remove the shirt from your website and stop making a profit off something that could and has happened in any part of the world. Remove the shirt and have an ounce of respect for those people.

The shirt was pulled from Cubby Tees by Friday morning, citing a "good new-fashoned Twitter-lynching" and writing:

Though we: (a) are loathe to take any action that appears to bow to bullying, and; (b) had hoped that residents of the “Cradle Of Liberty” held a greater appreciation for the freedom of expression (we support you venting your opinions, not so much your threats and insistence on censorship)…we’ve nevertheless pulled the shirt in the interest of harmony between two great cities.

It was replaced with a screed about free speech and how criticism of the gear was misguided. Because they weren’t making light of the tragedy’s most recognizable slogan, but rather – and completely ironically, we imagine – those who seek to profit from it.

Here’s the description Cubby Tees said ran with the shirt on their website, before it was pulled:

From the Cubby Tees tirade in response to the Bostonian fans’ tirades over the shirts:

Anyone who believes that the shirt mocked those injured in the horrible events of Patriots’ Day regrettably missed our point and did not read/process our accompanying commentary; nowhere on the shirt’s face (or within its subtext or motivation) did we take aim at the victims or make light of the incident -- nor would we ever. The design poked fun at the embarrassing self-congratulatory branding of the tragedy, and its inappropriate adoption by SOME BOSTON FANS AS A MINIMIZING SPORTS ANTHEM, not the sad reality of that day’s mayhem.

Our hearts go out to all of those touched by the 3 fatalities and 30 serious injuries from that crime. This is not a recalcitrant statement motivated by your Tweets: like the rest of the world, we said (and felt) this right from the beginning. We love Boston, we love Bostonians. There was nothing in this shirt intended to trivialize the real losses; the design was based on the puzzling creation of a “Boston Strong” slogan in the first place, and then the use of that banner for the glory of New England pro teams.

(For the record: The site refused to donate a “nominal amount” to Boston-based charities as an act of contrition, opting to instead donate to a Chicago-based one to be determined.)

I found the “Toronto Stronger” sign nauseating, and feel the same about this. It’s a matter of perspective: Knowing people who survived 9/11, and remembering those that didn’t, my point of reference is whether another sports team using any of that iconography to mock the Yankees (I team I abjectly loathe) would have crossed the line in the wake of the attack

(And let’s not drop our pants and start comparing scope of tragedies, or explain how a city is “supposed” to feel after them. Which seems to be the thrust of the Cubby Tees argument: “Every single injury and death to an innocent is devastating to us all, but not every criminal act is a threat to our way of life. Thankfully Boston was not in the crosshairs of a coordinated international attack, but witnessed a crime by two homocidal locals.” Oh, geez, sorry. I take back all the piss I wasted in my pants living in Rockville, Maryland during the sniper shootings. Hopefully my anxiety will correctly match the threat level in hindsight during the next tragedy.)

I’m as wary as anyone about using these tragedies, and throw wars into this mix, for the sake of visceral entertainment without commentary. I don’t need to hear the National Anthem at a sporting event. I don’t need to see a soldier used as a prop during the game to get the crowd going. If the Bruins ever used a “Boston Strong” montage to fire up the fans in the third period, well, yes, that’s a bit deplorable too.

So if that truly was the aim for this shirt’s existence, it at least inches closer to “understandable but undoubtedly still misguided.”

Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. But in a situation drenched in irony – railing against the “frat boy” chant that “Boston Strong” has become by producing a T-shirt that’ll be seen in every frat bar in Wrigleville, for one of a dozen examples – the idea that a “Chicago Stronger” T-shirt was pulled off the market because Boston fans’ protests were that strong … well, how ‘bout them apples?