It is football season again and fans in communities across the country are turning out for high school games. They are probably wearing sweatshirts, t-shirts and other gear to cheer their local team. Unfortunately, if those fans bought their clothing from their local Walmart store, their team is not getting any financial support, and that means that the games may be numbered.
We recently received reports from all over the country about Walmart selling high school logo sportswear without the schools' permission and without donating any of the profits. As a result, fundraising efforts are undercut and already thin school athletic budgets are stretched even further as local residents buy cheaper versions at Walmart.
The practice has likely been ongoing for years, but current economic problems and shrinking school budgets may be the catalyst for some schools to take a closer look at how Walmart's effort puts a dent in their local programs.
It started on September 4, when KXLY-4 News out of Washington state reported that a local Wal-Mart was selling Cheney High School athletic gear without permission, and without donating any of the profits.
Several days later, the Kingsport Times-News reported that Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tennessee has repeatedly complained to Walmart about the practice and the school attorney has sent cease-and-desist letters. Then, last Friday - the Cheney Free Press reported that a host of schools in the Washington state area have been complaining about the same problem.
Yesterday, WGBA-26 in Green Bay, Wisconsin found another local high school that's being cheated. Wal-Mart's response? "With the help of supplier partners who understand the needs of local communities, we work to offer school apparel at affordable prices."
How kind of them.
It may be questionable whether Walmart has the legal right to undercut youth sports and profit off a school's logo without permission. But there's no question about whether it's ethical.
Fans love to show their team spirit by sporting team attire. The sad thing is that local residents who have been buying school sportswear at Walmart probably just assumed the company was sharing the profits and supporting their teams instead of cheating their schools out of much needed funds.
The upshot for Walmart is that it has a chance to turn around yet another public relations nightmare by doing the right thing. Walmart should immediately reevaluate this policy and work with local schools to either stop the sales or share the profits.
Schools deserve a team player. Right now, Walmart is acting like it's the only one on the field.