MLB wants to destroy Indians championship gear, not donate it

As is the case every season, Major League Baseball pre-produced championship gear for both the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians before a World Series winner was determined. In doing so, the league was afforded the opportunity to ship the gear in advance, allowing Cubs championship merchandise to reach shelves at retail stores and other outlets within hours and even minutes of their winning the World Series.

Of course, with those pre-production measures in place, there’s always a stock of championship T-shirts, hats and other gear that become outdated before they even hit those shelves. In this instance, all of the Indians gear that was produced and seemingly destined to be sold after the team jumped out to a 3-1 World Series lead are now mislabeled and no longer hold value.

In years past, the league would not hesitate to put the extra merchandise to good use. Typically, that meant donating it to charities, such as the Christian nonprofit group World Vision, which aims to fight poverty worldwide. Now though, the league has completely changed the policy. Rather than donating the merchandise, they’re asking it be returned so it can be destroyed.

“In past years we have used World Vision, but we have moved our policy to destroying the merchandise,” MLB’s Matt Bourne told the Huffington Post on Wednesday. “The reason is to protect the team from inaccurate merchandise being available or visible in the general marketplace.”

Cleveland’s “Believeland” merchandise lives on, but all pre-produced Indians championship gear will be destroyed. (AP)

The timing of the policy change and the league’s vague explanation left plenty of room for speculation. In fact, many speculated this decision had more to do with the controversy surrounding the Indians’ “Chief Wahoo” logo, which many view as a racist caricature of a Native American, than any other factor.

However, a recent Huffington Post article explains why this decision likely extended beyond that issue.

On its face, destroying mislabeled T-shirts may seem like a less ethical solution than donating them to charity. But the issue is actually a bit more complicated. Experts have found that exporting secondhand clothing from the United States and other wealthy countries to developing nations, where nonprofits and wholesalers hand it out or sell it at low prices, can devastate local clothing industries. Ultimately, all that secondhand clothing may do more harm than good.

World Vision is aware of the problem, Fischerkeller said, and only donates “new” clothing to areas where local staff have determined there is a need and where the product isn’t otherwise available or the people receiving it are not “market participants.”

For what it’s worth, Bourne denied that the league’s decision was influenced by the potential negative donating such items could have on developing countries. They’re sticking with their company line, which is fine. But it definitely feels like there’s more to this change of policy than what they’re saying, and it feels even more likely we’ll never get a clearer explanation.

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!