Lions Not Sheep founder alleges FTC fine is a political ‘witch hunt’

The Lions Not Sheep logo is printed on the back door at its storefront in Bluffdale, Utah.

The Lions Not Sheep logo is printed on the back door at its storefront in Bluffdale on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. The apparel company is based in Utah.

Ben B. Braun, Deseret News

After the Federal Trade Commission announced a fine against clothing brand Lions Not Sheep for false claims of their clothing being completely made in the United States, Sean Whalen, founder of the Utah-based company, took to social media to respond to the FTC order.

In a nearly 15 minute video, Whalen calls the situation a “political witch hunt” and alleges the FTC wants to “nuke and obliterate any conservative company they can.”

Lions Not Sheep — its name a reference to the saying “a lion doesn’t lose sleep over the opinion of sheep” — is known for its pro-Trump and politically conservative messages and became popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The video appeared Tuesday after Lions Not Sheep did not provide comment for news coverage about the FTC fine, then canceled an interview that was being scheduled with the Deseret News.

Whalen explained in the video that the company buys “blank” clothing items from wholesale providers who manufacture the physical clothing items overseas. Those “blanks” are then shipped to the Lions Not Sheep warehouse in Utah where the company then prints its logos or designs and assembles the clothing.

Under new FTC requirements put in place on August 13, 2021, for a company to claim its items are made in the U.S., “all or virtually all of the product’s ingredients or components are made and sourced in the United States.”

According to Whalen, the company didn’t have knowledge of the change and continued to label its clothing as made in the U.S. despite not meeting the new requirements.

“Prior to August 2021, we were in compliance, to the best of our knowledge, to the best of our capacity, according to our lawyers and everybody else, of what the FTC’s ‘Made in America’ claims were,” Whalen said in the video.

Whalen acknowledged the company was out of compliance for a period of time and said he “owns that 150%.”

He then added they were selling “#FJB” shirts at the time (shorthand for an expletive directed at President Joe Biden) and the FTC “rightfully probably came after us.”

The FTC states in the complaint that between May 10, 2021 and Oct. 21, 2021 tags disclosing the products were made in a foreign country were removed and replaced with “Made in USA” tags on the neck.

The FTC published a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” on July 16, 2020 to seek comments on the proposed rule tightening “Made in USA” labeling requirements.

The official rule was then published on July 1, 2021 with an effective date of August 13, 2021.

The FTC’s complaint says Whalen posted a video on October 8, 2020 of himself saying he can conceal the fact the shirts are made in China by taking out “Made in China” tags and replacing them with tags saying the products were made in the United States.

According to an FTC press release, the company must stop making “bogus” claims that its products are “Made in the USA” and “come clean about foreign production.” The company and Whalen are being fined $211,335.

The frequently asked questions portion of the Lions Not Sheep website states the company sources “blanks” from internationally and domestic suppliers and the blank garments are shipped to the United States from overseas.

Carlene Coombs

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