T-shirt center of battle between HISD school, company

October 13, 2011 3:49:17 PM PDT
A T-shirt is at the center of a fight between an HISD school and a local company that's worked with many schools in our area.

The battle is whether a Houston company has the right to sell T-shirts with Lamar High School's name and logo on them. The school and school district say the shirts are being made without consent.

At Fringe Salon on West Alabama, near the end of August, Amber Jemison says she received a call from a woman selling advertising space on the back of T-shirts being produced.

"She said that she was the sports director at Lamar High School," Jemison said.

Jemison says Fringe paid $270 for the ad, though no T-shirt has been produced. But through another business, which similarly purchased space, she learned that Lamar High School didn't know anything about the shirts.

"It just doesn't seem to add up," Jemison said.

A representative with Houston-based TKO Sports showed us endorsement agreements which they claim were signed late last year and early this year by the school's football and track coach, Steve Pinkney, and a head of the school's girl's basketball booster club. We showed the documents to Principal James McSwain, who believes the coach did sign the paperwork last year. But he says neither had authoritiy to given legal consent to use the school's name or logo.

"At the very minimum signature should be James A. McSwain," McSwain said "If it does not have my signature on it for this high school, it is not a valid contract for this high school."

TKO insists it has done nothing wrong, telling us, "...this is a legitimate business" and that they have contracts with over 500 schools around the country. They say the shirts are given to schools, that they've never charged a school for shirts.

They add that 100 percent of the money rasied by the school from the sale of shirts remains with the school. McSwain says fundraisers at his school are always conducted by the students, not third parties. He's never signed off on participation with TKO.

"I have not, we have not authoritized anyone to act on our behalf and our community also needs to know that," he said.

McSwain says coach Pinkney will face disciplinary action for apparently signinging the agreement without the authority to do so.

As for the shirts, TKO says they have not been printed yet, mostly because they had several sponsors default. They had to secure new sponsors before they could move forward. They say the shirts should be distributed in the next few weeks. It's unclear what will happen when the company tries to deliver the shirts to the school.

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