Louisville Slugger maker ends sales of nightsticks for police nonprofit amid protests

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The maker of the Louisville Slugger said it will no longer produce commemorative nightsticks in the style of the iconic baseball bat that the Louisville Metro Police Foundation had offered for sale.

The foundation’s website had offered a personalized nightstick for those looking to be “on the Louisville beat with Louisville’s legendary bat.”

They cost $59.99 each and came in three finishes, with proceeds from sales going to the police foundation, which is independent of the Louisville Metro Police Department.

But the offer caused some unease on social media, particularly as law enforcement has been criticized for its use of force, both in the fatal shootings of Breonna Taylor and David McAtee, two Black Louisville residents, and in the ensuing protests.

“Anyone else concerned by this?” one person asked on Twitter this week, following it up with hashtags including #cool and #unbelievable.

“What the actual hell is wrong with people?” someone else posted.

The nightsticks are coming to an end, however.

The Louisville Metro Police Foundation, an independent private nonprofit backing police initiatives, sells custom nightsticks.

On Friday, a spokesman for Hillerich & Bradsby Co., which produces the Louisville Slugger, said that “we have notified Louisville Metro Police Foundation this morning that we are ending the nightstick program effective immediately.”

Rick Redman, vice president of corporate communications for Hillerich & Bradsby, told The Courier Journal in an email that the nightsticks for sale on the police foundation website “are not new.”

The company had made the souvenir wooden nightsticks that were about 18 to 19 inches long for “at least” 15 to 20 years, Redman said.

“No one currently on our staff seems to know for certain,” Redman said of how many years the nightsticks had been sold for.

But after the issue of selling them “came internally within the last 36 hours,” Redman said Hillerich & Bradsby leaders “decided that we will no longer produce them.”

“We have publicly condemned racism,” Redman said in the email. “We condemn police brutality in any form. We recognize the symbolism of nightsticks.”

“We are not a mass producer of nightsticks,” Redman added. “The product offered through the Louisville Metro Police Foundation’s web site is a commemorative item intended for display. LMPF has sold them over the years as a fundraiser.

“For historic perspective, the earliest reference in our archives to nightsticks goes back to the 1940’s when we made them for Military Police during World War II.”

An official with the Louisville Metro Police Foundation did not immediately return an email seeking comment Friday.

Thousands in Louisville have protested police brutality and the killing of Black Americans over the past two weeks, with police meeting them with tear gas, pepper balls and other deterrents on multiple occasions.

Mayor Greg Fischer has promised to hire a consultant to review the police department from top to bottom as part of the fallout over the controversial shootings of Taylor and McAtee, with both deadly incidents also undergoing independent investigations.

Redman, with Hillerich & Bradsby, said the company has informed the Louisville Metro Police Foundation that “we are open to discussing other ways we may be able to support their organization’s efforts that benefit all of our community.”

*story by USA Today