T-shirts and other apparel sold by Lions Not Sheep feature American flags, guns and phrases commonly associated with right-wing groups — and the company promises to ship a free copy of the U.S. Constitution with every order.
“Wear this shirt as a public DECLARATION,” the Lions Not Sheep Facebook page adds.
But even though the labels on those shirts read “Made in the USA,” the company’s products are imported from other countries, according to a Federal Trade Commission complaint.
“Stop making bogus Made in USA claims, and [come] clean about foreign production,” the trade commission said in a late-July statement announcing actions against Lions Not Sheep.
Now, the Utah-based apparel brand and its owner, Sean Whalen, have been ordered to pay a $211,335 fine and to cease “Made in USA Fraud,” according to the FTC.
“Companies that slap phony Made in USA labels on imported goods are cheating their customers and undercutting honest businesses, and we will hold those companies and their executives accountable for their misconduct,” Samuel Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in May when announcing the actions.
Whalen and Lions Not Sheep didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post. However, the brand addressed the FTC’s announcement in an Instagram post earlier this year, saying “Our T-Shirts are Printed in the USA! Our hats are embroidered in the USA.”
“I’m proud to have built a company from a single tee shirt on blood sweat and tears and who employs dozens of hard working Americans,” the post states. “Lots of folks who haven’t done much always have plenty to say, but we at LNS are head down working hard to continue to grow and support our first responders, military, and all patriots across the globe.”
The journey from fabric to T-shirt — such as the one depicting Donald Trump as the Terminator above the words “I’ll be back” — begins overseas, the company now discloses on its website. Manufacturers in China, Colombia or Bangladesh create blank apparel and ship the items to American facilities, where they’re “printed on, embroidered, labeled, tagged, and bagged” before being sent to Lions Not Sheep headquarters, the company’s website states.
But the FTC says that to qualify for the “Made in the USA” label, items can include only “a negligible amount of foreign content.”
According to the complaint, Lions Not Sheep not only falsely marketed its products as being “100% AMERICAN MADE” but also went a step further by swapping the garments’ original labels.
In October 2020, Whalen shared a video on social media in which he said he “could conceal the fact that his shirts are made in China by ripping out the origin tags and replacing them with tags stating that the merchandise was made in the United States,” according to the FTC.
“This is how it works,” he said in the video.
The FTC disagreed.
“Whalen and Lions Not Sheep must stop claiming that products are made in the United States unless they can show that the product’s final assembly or processing — and all significant processing — takes place here and that all or virtually all ingredients or components of the product are made and sourced here.”
Lions Not Sheep is a name that riffs on a popular conservative stance — one that gained prominence during the pandemic by denigrating those who adhered to strict health guidelines as followers, or “sheep.” The brand often features products with right-wing messaging. A recent Instagram advertisement for “Shall Not Be Infringed” tees was captioned with the text of the Second Amendment. Other apparel includes the phrase “Give violence a chance” and a profane expression against President Biden.