Sean Labar and Shelby Myers were doing a fine business in Richmond on Saturday morning, selling the ‘Keep the Name’ T-shirts they started marketing a few weeks ago amid continuing debate about the Redskins name.
“A good amount, but nothing crazy,” as Labar put it.
Then, not long after Washington’s Fan Appreciation Day practice session ended, their biggest customer of the day arrived in a black Escalade.
“It came across three lanes of traffic and pulled up at the sidewalk,” Labar told me on Sunday. “Two security guys popped out. One guy said ‘Mr. Snyder wants to talk to you.’ ”
Sure enough, Daniel Snyder emerged from the Escalade. He shook Myers’s hand. He shook Labar’s hand.
“Love the shirts, guys, love what you’re doing,” Snyder said.
Labar offered to have some shirts sent to Snyder; the owner said they would pay for them. Then his wife, Tanya Snyder, came out of the car and started sizing the shirts up, before purchasing four of the $15 tees and praising Labar and Myers for their idea.
The Snyders drove off, but 30 minutes later, their security detail returned, purchasing six more of the T-shirts. Labar and Myers sold more than 70 shirts on the day; no one bought more than the team’s owner.
“It was pretty cool, coming from just trying to sell a few shirts, just messing around with it,” Labar said. “Being a Redskins fan my entire life, that kind of reached the pinnacle for us. We always talked about maybe getting a player to get in the shirt, or maybe getting a coach to get in the shirt. But when you have an owner willing to come spend his money on your shirts, that was kind of the ultimate honor.”
Labar, 26, is a sports journalism student at Towson. Myers, 24, works in sales. Labar is a lifelong Redskins fan who used to live in Richmond; he thought the T-shirts would be popular with Redskins fans and would help demonstrate his own support for the name he grew up with.
“I’ve always been a Redskins fan, and always identified with the pride that was associated with the name,” he wrote. “I grew up singing Hail to the Redskins and watching Chief Zee get the crowd excited. There is just too much history that is associated with the name.”
Labar was just going to stick with “Keep the Name” shirts, but Myers’s father — who has a background in graphic design — came up with the logo. (Their feathers are not exactly like those in the team’s official image.) They sell the shirts on eBay and on their Web site, and through their Twitter account (@HTTRKeep) and e-mail address. When they wear the shirts out in public, they’re often stopped by people who ask how to get one.
The couple spent about a month securing a vendor’s permit in Richmond at the corner of Leigh and Hermitage; Labar plans to go back at least three or four more times before training camp ends. They’re also trying to secure a position outside FedEx Field so they could sell shirts to fans entering and leaving games this fall. (Last season, you might recall, someone else was distributing “I Support the Name” pins at FedEx Field.)
Labar understands that not everyone agrees with his stance, and he’s been confronted by people who don’t like the name or his shirt. He’s also received Facebook messages and e-mails from people unhappy with his product.
“I knew that comes with the territory,” he said. “I say, ‘I’m just a fan. I know where you’re coming from, but we’re going to grind it out until people stop buying them.’ This was a way to make money, but it’s also something I believe in. I just saw a need.”