The year was 1985 when the Troop Sport clothing line hit the scene with their ghetto fabulous and overpriced athletic urban wear. Troop, which was owned by two Jewish brothers, Teddy and Harvey Held, and a Korean, Howard Kim, was an instant hit with Blacks and Latinos, but as Troop settled in to their marketing niche, a rumor began to float around that the company name was in fact an acronym that was Ku Klux Klan-inspired. Did Troop actually stand for ‘To Rule Over Oppressed People?’ and was the company owned by the KKK?
In the ’80s, tongues began to wag, minds wondered, and word began to spread that every dollar from a Troop sale would go toward financing White supremacist group the KKK, who would allegedly insert little slips of paper in to the lining of Troop jackets and in to the tread of their sneaker line with that said, “Thank you n*gger for making us rich.”
Soon the rumors intensified, with folks swearing they had witnessed rapper LL Cool J on Oprah Winfrey‘s now-defunct talk show putting down the clothing company as a KKK-run establishment and ripping off his Troop jacket in disgust.
As the rumors spread, Troop was quickly going to hell in a hand basket.
In order to try and dispel the very damaging rumors, Troop placed anti-Klan posters in stores and publicized endorsements by leaders of the NAACP and Operation Push. Celebrity franchise owners Willie Horton and Gladys Knight also lent their support. Troop’s Black marketing director, Wesley Mallory, even cut open the linings of five jackets in a Montgomery, Ala., store to prove that there were no cryptic anti-Black cryptic messages inside.
Unfortunately, Mallory’s demonstration had no affect on the masses; the damage had been done and folks were not interested in any messages from spin doctors.
Five years after Troop Sport had begun its operations, they were forced to shut down the company by declaring bankruptcy. The company’s owners attributed the brand’s demise to bad business decisions, though, rather than the KKK rumors that many still believe till this very day.