'Honey Badger' shirts shelved long before Mathieu's dismissal
Jared Loftus says it was like experiencing the death of a dear friend when Tyrann Mathieu was dismissed from the LSU football team a week ago, considering the number of the text messages and emails that bombarded the College District owner.
Loftus caught the attention of national media last year when College District began selling gold shirts that played on Mathieu's plucky playmaking abilities and his inexplicable nickname, the "Honey Badger," an animal whose popularity on YouTube was already viral with its ferocious attacks against cobras and careless forays into honey bee nests—all the while narrated in a particular clip by a man with a curiously effeminate voice that says "The Honey Badger doesn't care, it just takes what it wants."
The mantra, to those familiar with the clip, epitomized Mathieu's play on defense and special teams, and a legendary nickname was born. Loftus was early to use the theme and image of a honey badger carrying a football.
Game analysts lofted the shirts on CBS and ESPN telecasts.
"Honey Badger sales were good to us last year," says Loftus.
Ironically, Loftus had already made up his mind to stop making the shirt in December—back when it was assumed that the "Honey Badger" would be a star at LSU throughout the forthcoming season and potentially beyond.
"There was a lot of controversy with that design; LSU was not comfortable with it," he says, particularly with concerns that the NCAA might perceive the university as profiting off of a student athlete. "It was the shirt, and they didn't like how it appeared."
During last season, Loftus enlisted abundant legal protection so as to keep selling the popular shirt.
"I spent more in legal fees last fall than I've spent in the prior seven years combined," he says, refusing to disclose an approximate cost.
Last week, Loftus put the remaining Honey Badger shirts in stock on sale for $5 a piece. He says he's since sold about 100.
The overall experience for the company was good, but Loftus says he had no intention of continuing to strain College District's relationship with LSU. "We're moving on," he says.
And that goes for any future "Mettsiah" shirts that might play on quarterback Zach Mettenberger's purported godly abilities, or any other LSU player that may become the next incarnation of the "Honey Badger."
"Anything player-related is pretty much off limits," Loftus says.
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