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Humboldt Broncos to announce how nearly $12M in donations will be used

From CTV - April 16, 2018

Officials with the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team, which lost 16 players and staff in a horrific bus crash earlier this month, were expected to release details Monday on how they plan to use the nearly $12 million raised through crowdfunding.

More than 130,000 individuals and businesses from Canada and other countries have donated between $50 and $50,000 to the GoFundMe campaign -- called Funds for Humboldt Broncos -- which was originally dedicated to covering the expenses of the victims' families.

But concerns are mounting about the sale of unauthorized merchandise that uses the team's name, logo, or the slogan "Humboldt Strong" without donating any of the funds to the victims or their families.

It's common for people to want to buy items that will allow them to show their support after a tragic event, says Timothy Dewhirst, a marketing and consumer studies professor at the University of Guelph.

"There's often, after a tragedy like this, different displays of support and solidarity that we might see," he said. "We have seen a lot of people displaying green ribbons and displaying hockey sticks at their front door."

But the potential problem with unauthorized merchandise is that consumers may assume that any sale connected to an event like the bus crash includes a donation, when not all of them do.

Online retailers like Redbubble, which allow users to upload their own designs and pays them a portion of the profits, offer dozens of T-shirt designs featuring Humboldt-related logos, as well as cellphone cases, mugs, tote bags, and more, but the products do not mention donations of any kind. Redbubble did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Other websites like Teepublic and Teezily, which also allow users to upload their own work, similarly offer many Humboldt Broncos products, most of which do not mention a donation, although some products do link to the GoFundMe page.

In cases like this, the responsibility is shared between the retailer and the consumer, Dewhirst says.

The choice to sell products that reference the bus crash but do not benefit any of the victims "certainly does not appear very ethical," he says. "Many (people) would have a moral stance on trying to capitalize financially on a tragedy."

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