Monday, February 19, 2007

How the NFL turns Africa into Bizarro World

MIAMI, Feb. 3 — In some parts of the world, the Seattle Seahawks are the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Buffalo Bills are the last great football dynasty and Tom Brady is some frustrated quarterback from New England who can never win it all.

So say the T-shirts and the caps worn in Niger, Uganda and Sierra Leone.

The Super Bowl will end about 10 p.m. Sunday, and by 10:01 every player on the winning team — along with coaches, executives, family members and ball boys — could be outfitted in colorful T-shirts and caps proclaiming them champions.

The other set of championship gear — the 288 T-shirts and caps made for the team that did not win — will be hidden behind a locked door at Dolphin Stadium. By order of the National Football League, those items are never to appear on television or on eBay. They are never even to be seen on American soil.

They will be shipped Monday morning to a warehouse in Sewickley, Pa., near Pittsburgh, where they will become property of World Vision, a relief organization that will package the clothing in wooden boxes and send it to a developing nation, usually in Africa.

This way, the N.F.L. can help one of its charities and avoid traumatizing one of its teams.
“Where these items go, the people don’t have electricity or running water,” said Jeff Fields, a corporate relations officer for World Vision. “They wouldn’t know who won the Super Bowl. They wouldn’t even know about football.”

The gear is flown, along with school and medical supplies, into a major city. It is then driven to one of the villages where World Vision staff members work. They distribute the shirts and caps at a community center, about two per family.

I had no idea how charitable the NFL is, but it sure creates some odd visuals.

Read the entire story here.

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