Photos: Examining Wrigleyville's racist, homophobic T-shirt culture

July 30, 2009

***This post contains photos of potentially offensive material. Please view at your discretion.

During the beginning of the 2008 season, street vendors outside of Wrigley Field were selling a T-shirt (pictured below) relating to the Cubs' newly-acquired Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome. A Sun-Times story brought attention to its use of slanted eyes and a crude Asian accent. The public flooded the Cubs organization with complaints and they forced the shirt's manufacturer to discontinue production due to trademark violations.

horry-kow

Although milder versions of the original shirt can still be seen on the vendor displays, other controversial images have taken its place. If the graphic above is seen as offensive, is the one below any less racially-charged?

pujols-mows-my-lawn

Street vendors and performers were the target of 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney's proposed ordinance that would effectively ban them from the streets within two blocks of the stadium on game days.

Joe Sienkiewicz, 46, is a street vendor who attended a July 14th meeting with local businesses, vendors, and residents of the 44th Ward.‚  Joe claimed that Ald. Tunney said his T-shirt business would be safe for the 2009 season.

Beyond this season, no guarantees.

The Fukudome shirt disappeared without much resistance, but others sold by vendors that don't display trademarked material may be tougher to ban, potentially leaving the Cubs in a public relations mess.

Before a Cubs night game on July 28th, Joe was hard at work handing out more shirts to several vendors from his open trunk on Sheffield.‚  He responded to some of the recent issues, "We have free speech. This is not the only avenue that people sell that type of shirt. You can go anywhere in the city of Chicago and you'll find negative T-shirts, funny T-shirts," Joe explained. "Some call them racist T-shirts, but it depends on how you look at it. But if they're going to kick us out for that, then they better get rid of them all over the city of Chicago, all over the state of Illinois."

Vendors remain a staple of the Wrigleyville atmosphere for now, but disgruntled store owners, sidewalk congestion, and backlash from racy shirts are adding pressure to their already tenuous position.

"We are prepared to fight Ald. Tunney. We want to make a living here," Sienkiewicz explained.

Below are some more of the shirts offered by vendors. We recognize that some of these shirts may be offensive to viewers.