Nonprofit declines Durham T-shirt donation pledge

Jul. 03, 2013 @ 06:32 PM

The director of the N.C. Victims Assistance Network said she asked Tuesday for the nonprofit to be disassociated from the public pledge by a Durham-based entrepreneur to donate a portion of the proceeds of controversial T-shirt to the nonprofit.

Runaway clothing design company founder Gabe Eng-Goetz had said in an online post recently that he planned to donate a portion of the sale proceeds from “I’d rather be shot in Durham than die of boredom in Cary” T-shirt to the nonprofit.

“We never authorized this,” Elizabeth Watson, interim director of the crime victim advocacy nonprofit, said Wednesday. “We never agreed to this transaction with them. I emailed them yesterday and asked them to take us off the (website), and we’ve been removed.”

Watson said the company can set up an emergency fund to help victims, but the nonprofit didn’t want to be linked with the T-shirt, which she described as controversial.

“We work with violent crime victims every day,” she said. “It’s not a joke.”

“It’s not funny. It’s important to talk about gun violence, but this is not the route, this is not the channel. How many people have lost loved ones to gun violence? What about those families? It’s insensitive. We do need a discussion, but this is not the channel.”

Eng-Goetz said in an email Monday that “violent gun crimes are still a prevalent issue in Durham and this shirt makes a joke based on a harsh reality.”

“If anything it raises some good issues and starts a (needed) conversation,” he said.

The controversy comes at a time when four men have died in separate shootings over the past two weeks. Durham Mayor Bill Bell called in a press conference Tuesday for the community to help police prevent crime.

Eng-Goetz said in an email Wednesday that he’s working with a charity that helps victims to accept its donation, and whether or not “they want to be anonymous, that is to be seen.”

He said Monday that some retailers that have carried his other designs won’t carry this shirt. Board Paradise, a skate shop on Main Street in downtown Durham, was to be the first retailer to carry the shirt.

Matt Kelly, co-owner of the Durham store, which sells skateboards as well as hats, shoes, and clothing, said Tuesday that Eng-Goetz’s T-shirt designs sell well in the store.

“It’s just funny and obviously it’s getting attention; it should sell well,” he said Tuesday of the new design. “I’ve already had a bunch of people come in asking for it.”

Eng-Goetz said the shirt is slated to be in the store next week.