In a row of T-shirts with images of the American flag, late comic actor John Belushi and Kenny from South Park, hangs a shirt with an advertisement for Phillies Blunt cigars. Another T-shirt hung from MasterCard’s booth outside Subway at Cooper Hall Tuesday had the phrase “4-twenty” in a 7-11 parody graphic.
While it’s common knowledge that terms such as “4-20” and “blunt” are references to drug use, Jeremy King said people will take anything out of context.
King, a partner for Tag Marketing, a marketing branch for MasterCard, said it’s just a T-shirt and it’s not a big deal.
“Do you take it in the humorous context, or the serious context? It’s just a joke,” he said.
Sue Sietsma, a sophomore majoring in political science, said she doesn’t think it’s funny.
“It is inappropriate to have an agency on campus that directly or indirectly promotes illegal behavior,” Sietsma said.
Not only do some of the T-shirts, which are being used as promotional items for MasterCard, have double meanings with drug references on them, university officials are questioning if MasterCard is in violation of USF’s solicitation policy.
Michael Reich, interim director for media relations, said it appears MasterCard wasn’t even given authorization to solicit on campus.
“If they do not have authorization, they will be asked to leave,” Reich said. “The next step is asking the representative (at the booth) for authorization.”
Dan Casseday, USF director for marketing, said vendors need to be sponsored or given permission to be on campus by a university organization.
“Not just anyone can come on campus,” Casseday said.
But King said Subway sponsored MasterCard’s booth. While Sean Comito, regional manager for Subway’s contractor Sodexho Marriott, said he never gave permission for King to be there.
And Reich said Marriott wouldn’t have the authority to do that. He said all reservations must be made with the Marshall Center.Greg Jackson, coordinator for Marshall Center reservations, said MasterCard never went through his office, and if they had, all promotional materials would have to be approved.
“We ask the whole nine yards,” Jackson said.
Jackson said he would never have approved of T-shirts with drug references on them.
Ben Davis, a senior majoring in philosophy, said everyone knows that “4-20” means smoking marijuana and using phrases like that appeals to college students.
“A blunt is a big fat joint” he said. “It’s used for pot. Technically, it’s a cigar, but the first thing that pops into my mind is weed.”Some students say MasterCard is being irresponsible by using drugs for advertising purposes.
“It doesn’t appeal to me, but I can see how some non-drug users would be offended,” Senior Matt Allegretti said. “They are stereotyping college students.”
However, Allegretti said it doesn’t offend him personally.”If they feel it will attract people to fill out credit card forms, by all means do it,” he said.
Davis said most of the people who know what it is, do it, and would want the shirt. “They are probably irresponsible in their spending patterns and will go into debt,” he said.
Reich said university officials would look into the matter Wednesday.
- Contact William Albrittonat email@example.com