The death of George Floyd and the ensuing nationwide protests, rioting, looting and violence has devastated many businesses...but other businesses are cashing in on the movement. A new report details a growing industry of George Floyd-related merchandise for sale, including t-shirts, running shoes, pillows, and even underwear. Many of these items bearing Floyd's name and/or image are being sold online (some through Amazon), while others were sold by set-up vendors outside Floyd's public memorial and funeral service in Houston last week.
Profiteers looking to capitalize on a political movement or the death of a well-known figure is nothing new, but the question of whether or not it is legal is an open one. "It is hard to distinguish between people who are participating in the movement and those who are trying to profit from it, and I suspect some people are trying to do both," says Jennifer Rothman, law professor at Loyola Marymount University.
Rothman tells KTRH the law is murky when it comes to this type of merchandising. "There is a First Amendment right, particularly in these times of collective mourning, to be able to use central figures' names and likenesses, and that's true even for those who are selling things," she says.
In this case, the question is whether or not George Floyd qualifies as a "central figure" like a well-known celebrity or public figure would be. The law also varies from state to state, meaning that what applies to Floyd in Minnesota where he died may not apply in Texas where he was laid to rest.
Timing is another issue in determining the rights of Floyd's family and estate over his likeness. "What is true today in terms of the legitimacy of those claims might not be true sometime from now," says Rothman. "Right now, I think these uses are very much part of a political movement and a public conversation."