The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) today finally apologised for its role in the “I Support Akeem” tee-shirt controversy, which was part of its “Heart of a Warrior” fund-raising drive for 22-year-old Ferencvarosi defender and former two-time Trinidad and Tobago World Youth Cup player, Akeem Adams.
The TTFA told the public that “all proceeds” from the $100 Native Spirit-produced tee-shirts would go to Adams, who is in ICU at the Vasmajori Heart Clinic in Budapest after suffering a massive heart attack in late September.
However, the football body revealed, last week Thursday, that only $25 from each shirt would go to Adams.
TTFA press officer Shaun Fuentes initially denied that the football body said all proceeds would go to the player before admitting, later, that it was an oversight on his part. However, general secretary Sheldon Phillips was slow to acknowledge his organisation’s role in the confusion.
But, after five days, the TTFA finally conceded today that it had done the public a disservice in its communication over the “I Support Akeem” venture.
“The TTFA is sorry and would like to express its regret over any confusion caused by inconsistent communication,” stated an unsigned TTFA release, from the office of the general secretary, “regarding the amount of the sales price directed to the fund supporting Akeem.
“In hindsight, a follow up release expressly stating the amount going to the fund from T-shirt sales should have been produced.”
Phillips said, over the weekend, that a cost itemisation from Native Spirit would be key to defusing the controversy and the onus was on the clothing company to explain why it cost $75 to produce and sell each tee-shirt.
“If it turns out that the cost breakdown doesn’t stand up with the figures that they showed us before, that is something they will have to answer to,” Phillips told Wired868 on Saturday.
Today, the TTFA said that it has accepted Native Spirit’s financial breakdown for the production and sale of the tee-shirts and thanked the company for its “contribution to the effort.”
The TTFA insisted that there was no suggestion of improper profiteering by Native Spirit.
“Based on third party confirmation of costs associated with the production of the shirts, the donation provided by the T-shirt sales was appropriate,” stated the TTFA, “and we respectfully deny any claims of profiteering.
“As purchasers would attest, the quality of the T-shirt and especially the print is exceptional. Instead of passing along an item of lesser quality, the TTFA sought to ensure our brand would adorn items of an excellent standard.”
Crucially, the TTFA has not made public the cost of production or sale of the “I Support Akeem” tee-shirts, which Native Spirit presented to the football body on Monday. And there is no explanation as to why it cost $150,000 to produce shirts that were sold for $200,000.
Phillips is out of the country at present as he attended the CONCACAF Under-20 World Cup qualifying draw in the Cayman Islands last night. He acknowledged receipt of a Wired868 email which requested further figures from the Native Spirit venture but did not provide further details up to the time of publication.
Native Spirit managing director Bruce Kaufman was said to be “unavailable” and then “not here” when Wired868 called the company for clarification.
The TTFA will hold a press conference from 2 pm on Friday at the All Out restaurant in which it will give details on its upcoming friendly international matches against Jamaica on November 15 and 19. The football body said it would take follow-up questions on the Adams venture there.
Well-wishers who would like to donate to Adams can do so with a direct donation to the RBC account of his mother, Ancilla Adams, which is #100085172658914.
Despite the controversy, the TTFA revealed that Native Spirit continues to sell the “I Support Akeem” tee-shirts and the football body urged supporters to continue buying them.
“The TTFA is proud to have played a role in providing a quality product to support a noble cause in a relatively short space in time,” stated the TTFA, “and would like to thank Native Spirit for its contribution to the effort.
“It is our sincere hope the public will continue to come to the aid of Akeem and his family; whether through direct donation to the RBC Account set in the name of Akeem’s Mother, Ancilla Adams (Acct # 1000- 851-726-5891) or through the purchase of the T-shirts; which raises awareness of Akeem’s fight and provides the wearer of the shirt an opportunity to show their support for a national athlete.”