Greetings to our many new “fans”.

We wish that more had read the description for the “Chicago Stronger” shirt (or that we had more fully expessed it), but that might have allowed facts to get in the way of a good new-fashoned Twitter-lynching and the intertube's click-generating outrage machine that brought you to this page. Congratulations: you just provided $.10 in revenue to some website that profits from the anger that its headlines instill in you...but you'll find no hate here (despite certain editorials mislabeling this response a "lash" or "attack" on Boston fans).

Had our initial message pierced the knee-jerk reaction and gotten through to more online folk than did the simplistic inflammatory second-hand posts that ginned up their ire, they might have recognized that the satirical nature of this HOCKEY SHIRT targeted the tasteless exploiters in Boston's midst rather than any innocent victims. Then again, anyone who can make the leap from "our hockey team will beat your hockey team" to "you hate that dead child" likely would have found slander regardless.

We are loathe to appear to bow to bullying, and offer no apologies for the design, but have pulled the shirt images in the interest of harmony between two great cities. We post this additional explanatory essay for posterity, knowing it will likely fall on deaf ears (or blind eyes); judging by their tone/ignorance/froth/grammar, most of the protesters appear to lack an open mind, earnest desire for discourse or an ability to comprehend complex concepts like parody...let alone polysyllabic words (though some sent thoughtful, well-reasoned messages and complaints which we appreciated).

Anyone who believes that the "Chicago Stronger" shirt mocked those injured in the horrible events of Patriots’ Day is desperately seeking insult, and has clearly missed the point of our 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. Neither did we impugn the city/people of Boston: the shirt did not declare "BOSTON WEAK" "BOSTON NOT STRONG" or "BOSTON FAILED" it read, "CHICAGO STRONGER" with imagery firmly identifying the notion as hockey-related. The design promoted our Cup aspirations in a manner that also illuminated the inappropriate adoption/perversion of the original [taken from NJ] "Boston Strong" slogan by SOME BOSTON FANS AS A MINIMIZING SPORTS ANTHEM, not the sad reality of that day’s mayhem.

If you believe that it’s wrong to hijack human misery to promote athletic glory, THEN START AT HOME – that was what we were playing off. Every time we saw a Boston fan say “BOSTON STRONG, YANKEES SUCK,“ or "BOSTON STRONG, BRUIN STRONG!" we scratched our heads (and wondered if cheering for our teams made us terrorist-lovers). We've been similarly confused by your emails that first tell us we’re classless, then tell us how disturbingly horrifc the bombing was, then tell us to f*#k ourselves and that you hope Chicago is bombed and that our legs are blown off.

Before lecturing us that "Boston Strong should have nothing to do with sports or merchandise!" again look to your own house. Twitter & Facebook are rife with posts associating "Boston Strong" with every mundane in-game sporting achievement (not to mention shirtless antics, drunken stunts and sexual conquests) while eBay/etsy/CafePress/etc. are deluged with all manner of non-official trinkets sold for personal gain. Then there was the histrionic "Boston Strong" sports-related outrage when the Chicago Tribune figuratively ripped the Bruins' logo out of a graphic that depicted our towns' brotherhood; it didn't tear a picture of a victim...or even touch the Celts, Pats or BoSox logos...it playfully suggested that we can't be Bruins fans for this Cup series, and many in Boston labeled it a disgusting insult to anyone injured at the race! I really need to look up the meaning of the word "strong."

We always knew that Boston was tough and thus have been baffled by the town’s need to thump its collective chest and defiantly declare that after nearly 400 years of fortitude it would not crumble in the wake of a single senseless act commited by two deranged brothers (one dead, one incarcerated)…of course it would persevere. "Boston Strong" seemed oddly unecessary, self-congratulatory and inappropriately boastful, but if it made you feel better that was cool. We're just not sure when it went from a community sentiment to a frat-boy chant. It really appeared to jump the shark with the unbelievable proliferation of (non-fundraising) merchandising and the use of “Boston Strong” by many to aggrandize themselves, or as a war-cry against a non-existent threat and as an anthem for professional sports fans.

Our hearts go out to all of those touched by the 3 fatalities and 30 serious injuries from that crime. 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. Before the first "BS" shirt ever rolled off the press, it had become clear that Boston was not the target of any organization or international plot, but had witnessed an isolated crime by two homicidal locals. Luckily more people were not killed or maimed. Thankfully emergency workers showed skill and compassion, as brave first responders have in most every other attack/storm/calamity around the nation in recent years. Prayers and sighs of relief went to you from around the globe.

Too many news cycles bring fresh stories of great loss: recent months have seen mass shootings (Newton, 26 dead), rampage shootings (LA, Oak Creek, Aurora, Santa Monica – all with 5+ dead ), plant explosions (West Texas, 15 dead), tornadoes (Oklahoma, 24 dead), hurricanes (Sandy, 87 dead), building collapses (Philadelphia, 6 dead) and endemic crime (Chicago suffers 10 murders every week) amongst other catastrophes…every one heartbreaking, but not each with its own branding, defensive attitude, hashtag, trademark applications, concerts and profiteers.

Communities generally best show their strength by SHOWING it, not by telling everyone about it, not with screeching hyper-sensitivity to obscure tee shirts, and certainly not by suggesting that their athletic mercenaries will triumph because of real-life tragedy (let alone threatening that same ugly violence against anyone whom they perceive has slighted them). THAT MINDSET is what we were satirizing -- not the real pain suffered by real people away from the Twitterverse.

We believe that the majority of noble Bostonians have the proper perspective, priorities, and truly understand the notion of "strength." Indeed many have contacted us with support for our position (saying that it is also their position, but they daren't mention it), and have eloquently explained both the real meaning of Boston Strong to them, and their disgust with what it rapidly became.

To those who wrote with earnest hearts and emotional stories, we thank you for your time and your input. To those who banged out vulgar slurs, bullied with violent threats (a/k/a "terrorism"), launched hypocritical arguments, and babbled racist diatribes against Chicago…I guess we’re not surprised -- you’re Boston, and that’s why we (try so hard to) love you.

Here’s to a world without violence, to the speedy recovery of all victims, and to a decent hockey series – in that order.

Stay Strong.


UPDATE: We don’t wish to overly prolong the issue, but here are brief clarifications in response to the most common themes sent regarding our statement (and in lieu of answering the same questions repeatedly to reporters).

“Your apology was terrible”
Perhaps because it was not an apology, it was an explanation. We know what this shirt meant and we're not sorry we made it. The style of modern-day PR “apologies” is to issue the empty sentiment, “We’re sorry if anyone was offended...” and if such a notion provides any comfort, then you can consider it expressed (we did not aim to offend anyone). A true apology is when one believes that what they did was wrong and regrets ever having done it, not when one tries to retroactively salve the infinite array of individual responses experienced by everyone in the world. We cannot control anyone’s perception; we can only best explain our actions & intent, which were never malicious or disrespectful. Many have voiced disgust (reacting to an affront that was not there), and many have shown support (for freedom of expression and social commentary, not to any insult)…how would we apologize to one side without invalidating the other? This is a site that sells sports tee shirts. We promoted one team while taking umbrage with the behavior of another team’s fans in the context of sports – we’ve done it before, we’ll do it again.

“You weren’t in Boston – you don’t know what it means”
Setting aside the glaring hypocrisy attendant to most of these notes (“you have no idea how we feel…but we know exactly what you meant!”), the assertion is factually correct; we cannot know the first-hand grief experienced in Boston this April. In fact no two people in Boston shared the exact same experience or reaction. We have spoken to friends in Boston (who largely describe that week as difficult, sad and inconvenient, if not life-changing), we have many family and friends who live in New York (none of whom has ever reminded us that they survived 9/11) and as a former resident of Atlanta, the designer of this shirt was in that city when a shrapnel-filled bag exploded at a high-profile sporting event killing 2 and injuring over 100 -- the town didn't declare its strength (or martial law); it honored the dead, tended the wounded, cleaned up the mess and went on with the Games. But all tragedies are different. What we do know (or at least surmise) is that if the words “Boston Strong” ever provided a powerful bonding/ healing/ comforting anchor to parts of the community (and we hope it did), then such a personal emotional value should not be touchable by the words “Chicago Stronger” on a sports tee shirt that discusses hockey fans and that you never would have seen on a site you never would have visited unless an army of webmongers had instructed you to be angry. As several supportive Bostonians have written to us, “Anyone who is acting insulted by your shirts never really understood ‘Boston Strong’ in the first place.”

“We understand parody, but you shouldn’t parody a terrorist attack”
With respect - such a statement indicates that you do not, in fact, understand parody. Do you really think that the words “Chicago Stronger” on a hockey shirt sold to fans facing a club that’s backed by throngs who rowdily chant “BOSTON STRONG!” is a parody of the BOMBING?! Turn off your computer for a minute (yes, there's an OFF switch), take a walk outside (that’s the side of the door where the pizza guy stands), clear your head of the rhetoric, splash some water on your face and then ask yourself, "Do I honestly believe that this shirt was mocking the explosion that took life and limbs?” You know that you don’t. If one used the darkest parts of one’s mind, they could probably conceive of a tee shirt that mocked/parodied the actual attack – it would be disgusting and it would be nothing like this shirt. A misinterpretation that this tee lampooned the Boston SHIRTS or even the FUND-RAISING EFFORTS could be feasible, but to manufacture rage and pretend to believe that this made fun of the attack is intellectually dishonest and emotionally insulting. This is a parody of the Boston fans that have already disconnected the slogan from its original meaning and lessened it into a battle cry in support of performances by athletes paid to temporarily wear their city’s name on their uniforms.

“You are trying to profit off dead people!”
We are trying to profit off of our ideas, our artistic expression and an enthusiasm for sports that we share with several fervent fandoms. This simple design was meant to appeal to supporters of a hockey team that hopes to win a title – if you can execute the tortured mental gymnastics necessary to intentionally interpret those two words as a besmirching of the deceased, then you should probably bring it up at your next therapy session. To suggest that we would try to profit from mocking tragic deaths is to suggest that there is a market for items that mock tragic deaths. We hope there is not.