MLB caps linked to gang symbols pulled from store shelves

Updated: August 25, 2007, 3:09 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- A lineup of team logo baseball caps denounced as tailor-made for gang members was ordered removed from store shelves by its manufacturer Friday after complaints from baseball officials.

"It has been brought to our attention that some combinations of icons and colors on a select number of our caps could be too closely perceived to be in association with gangs," said Christopher H. Koch, CEO of New Era Cap. "In response, we, along with Major League Baseball, have pulled those caps."

The three styles in question used colors and symbols linked to three gangs: an all-white cap with a blue bandanna, the trademark of the notorious Crips; an all-white cap with a red bandanna worn by the rival Bloods; and a black cap with a gold team logo and an embroidered crown, a symbol favored by the Latin Kings.

"We encouraged and now fully support the decision of cap manufacturer New Era to pull these caps and any others that feature offensive or concerning symbols," read an MLB statement.

The New York Yankees had joined an anti-gang group, Peace on the Street, in denouncing the hats.

Both MLB and the Yankees insisted they were unaware of the symbolism in the cap designs, with the New York team noting they were never given a chance to review the new hats until they were already for sale.

The team was "completely unaware that caps with gang-related logos and colors had been manufactured with the New York Yankees logo on them," said a Yankees statement. "The New York Yankees oppose any garment that may be associated with gangs or gang-related activity."

On Thursday, protesters demonstrated about the new caps outside several Manhattan stores carrying the merchandise. The stores were selling a version of the hats bearing the familiar interlocking "NY" logo of the Yankees.

Richard Garcia, a karate instructor who works with Peace on the Street to provide youngsters with alternatives to gangs, said he immediately recognized the hats' colors from his work with former gang members.

"My fear was that the wrong kid was going to wear the wrong hat in the wrong neighborhood and get hurt," he said.

New Era said it would increase its efforts to ensure it had a better working knowledge of gang symbols, names and locations. The Buffalo-based company has produced hats for Major League Baseball since the 1930s.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press