ATLANTA -- As the final seconds ticked off clock in the Georgia Dome, retail workers stood by sealed boxes. If the Falcons had won, they would have rushed into action. Within minutes, the NFC Championship gear would have gone on sale.
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Academy Sports announced their stores would remain open until the championship gear was sold out. "Under the agreement with our vendors, which is primarily Nike in this case, we have to wait until that final clock is down to zero," Academy Sports Communications Coordinator Eric Herrera told 11Alive News.
The sellout never happened. The Falcons lost and the boxes remained unopened.
The sealed boxes will be sent back to vendors over the next few days. Fans and retailers don't even get a peek. Since the NFL doesn't want gear touting wins that never happened to show up on TV or eBay, the pre-printed material used to be destroyed.
Seventeen years ago, the NFL started donating the gear to World Vision. They're a Christian humanitarian organization working in 100 countries to tackle poverty and injustice.
After the gear is shipped back to NFL vendors, it's re-counted and sent to World Vision's distribution center in Pittsburgh.
Sheryl Watkins, Senior Communications Officer with World Vision, confirmed they were expecting Falcons "NFC Champions" and "Headed to the Superbowl" gear to arrive later this month. She said once they have a count of gear, they'll let their partneragenciesknow the clothing is available.
She shared pictures of a previous distribution where young boys in Uganda posed with Steelers Super Bowl Champs 2011 T-shirts (the Packers won the Super Bowl in 2011). Watkins said she's not sure yet where the Falcons gear will go, but in the past,it'sended up in El Salvador, Indonesia, and Haiti. Every year, the misprinted gear equals about 100 pallets of clothing, worth about $2 million.