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SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah-based apparel company known for its inflammatory T-shirts that often espouse pro-Second Amendment and pro-Trump messages was ordered to pay a hefty fine by the Federal Trade Commission for falsely claiming some its products were made entirely in the U.S.
Lions Not Sheep and its owner Sean Whalen were hit with a $211,335 fine last week after the FTC found the company removed "Made in China" tags, replacing them with phony "Made in the USA" labels, according to a news release.
It's the latest development after a complaint was filed by the FTC in May.
A reference to the saying "a lion doesn't lose sleep over the opinion of sheep," the company made waves during the pandemic in response to mask mandates and COVID-19 restrictions, with shirts that read "give violence a chance," depict Donald Trump as the Terminator and frequently feature military-style rifles.
The company also has a celebrity roster that includes mixed martial arts fighter Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone, Robert J. O'Neill, who claims to be the sole Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden, and motorcycle racer Davi Millsaps.
In addition to the fine, the company was directed to stop making "bogus" made in the U.S. claims and to "come clean about foreign production."
Lions Not Sheep now needs to prove the product's final assembly or processing takes place in the U.S. "and that all or virtually all ingredients or components of the product are made and sourced here" before it tells customers the apparel is American-made.
"Any qualified Made in USA claims must include a clear and conspicuous disclosure about the extent to which the product contains foreign parts, ingredients or components, or processing," the news release reads.
"Finally, to claim that a product is assembled in the United States, Whalen and Lions Not Sheep must ensure that it is last substantially transformed in the United States, its principal assembly takes place in the United States, and U.S. assembly operations are substantial."
Under its Frequently Asked Questions page, the company's website explains the process of "white labeling," where the raw materials are often purchased outside of the country, but assembled in the U.S.
It details how the company buys from manufacturers based in China, Colombia and Bangladesh, ships the blank apparel to facilities in the U.S. for printing, embroidering and tagging, then ships the finished product to the Lions Not Sheep headquarters in Utah.
But according to the FTC complaint, Whalen posted a video to social media claiming he could "conceal the fact that his shirts are made in China by ripping out the origin tags and replacing them with tags stating that the merchandise was made in the United States."
The complaint specifies that from May 10 to Oct. 8, 2020, Whalen removed tags that disclosed where the products were made. The company's shirts had labels that read "Made in the USA," "Made in America," "Are your products USA Made?" "100% AMERICAN MADE," and "BEST (expletive) AMERICAN MADE GEAR ON THE PLANET."
Lions Not Sheep did not respond to a request for comment.