'Keep yappin', man': Debate-themed merchandise is everywhere — and Amazon is blocking some of it

Rachel Grumman Bender
·4 mins read
Buzzy merchandise popped up online shortly after the Sept. 29 debate between President Trump and Joe Biden. (Instagram: Sydney Weiss)
Buzzy merchandise popped up online shortly after the Sept. 29 debate between President Trump and Joe Biden. (Instagram: Sydney Weiss)

After the first debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, T-shirts and hats emblazoned with the night’s most viral quotes popped up overnight.

One of the most controversial statements delivered during the Sept. 29 debate was when Biden, frustrated by the president’s interruptions, told him, “Will you shut up, man?” The saying was promptly emblazoned on T-shirts sold on Etsy, as well as on $35 hats from Balance of Power (a representative of which did not immediately reply to Yahoo Life’s request for comment).

On the platform Bonfire, Sydney Weiss sells T-shirts (and face masks) that say “Will you shut up, man?” as well as Biden’s other famous phrase from the debate, “Keep yappin’, man.” Weiss shares with Yahoo Life that she quickly determined which quotes belonged on her merchandise. “There's always phrases or one-liners that jump out at you when you’re watching the debate, and when Joe Biden said, ‘Will you shut up, man? Keep yappin' man,’ he literally took the words right out of my mouth and said what we’re all thinking,” says Weiss, who is the host and producer of Seek the Joy Podcast.

She adds: “I thought right away, ‘I need this on a T-shirt!’ I posted the phrase and my idea on social media, and so many friends reached out telling me if I put it on a T-shirt, they’d buy it.”

During the debate, Trump alleged that poll workers in Philadelphia were “thrown out,” and then uttered the memorable phrase, “Bad things happen in Philadelphia.” In a statement to CBS Philly, Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt clarified that Trump is referring to satellite centers that receive and process mail-in ballots — not official polling places — and that “individuals seeking to receive services from a satellite office are not permitted to be there for other purposes.”

The city’s artists pounced on the phrase, churning out T-shirts and mugs with the phrase “Bad things happen in Philadelphia” within hours of the debate, according to CBS Philly.

One seller, Johnny Douglas of Do It Now T-Shirts, told CBS Philly: “A couple people posted this needs to be on T-shirts, and we wanted to be quick on it. I just wanted to be the first one because I knew it was coming.”

One of the most controversial statements of the debate night was when moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump to denounce white supremacists. Trump then asked the Proud Boys — a designated hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — to “stand back and stand by.”

The next day, Twitter users reported that T-shirts with the phrase were already for sale on Amazon and Teespring. However, both retailers quickly removed the merchandise, with Teespring stating that it does not allow “the sale of items that promote hate or violence.” An Amazon spokesperson told CBS News, “All sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who do not will be subject to action including potential removal of their account. The products in question have been removed.”

So how are sellers able to create debate-themed merchandise so quickly? Weiss tells Yahoo Life that it takes her about 15 minutes to create a T-shirt design. She uses the website Canva to design the shirts and then uploads the graphics to Bonfire. “Bonfire has a great fundraising tool,” she says, “and I was able to publish the T-shirts and face mask even before the debate was over.”

Some sellers donate proceeds to the political campaigns they support, while others, like Wooder Ice, which sells “Bad things happen in Philadelphia” hoodies and T-shirts with Ben Franklin’s image, is donating a portion toward Morris Animal Refuge.

However, Balance of Power says it is “fully committed to Joe Biden as president” and “as private citizens, we also donate the maximum amount allowed by law” to campaigns, including Biden’s.

Weiss is also sending her profits to the Biden-Harris campaign. “I’m matching profits dollar for dollar, up to $100,” she says. “We’ve raised over $200 and once I match it, that’s over $300.”

Read more from Yahoo Life:

Want lifestyle and wellness news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Life’s newsletter.