SALT LAKE CITY — When the Salt Lake Acting Company received an offer to sponsor t-shirts for West High School, it sounded like a great opportunity to help a local school athletic program while highlighting SLAC's involvement in the community.
At first, it seemed like a win-win proposition, and SLAC Marketing and Communications Director Joshua Black got the green light to proceed.
But Black became suspicious when he saw the company making the offer, TKO Sports, was based in Arizona, when the school could have easily used an in-state vendor.
His suspicion was confirmed when SLAC contacted the high school and the school's athletic director said she had never heard of TKO Sports. Principal Jared Wright confirmed that he is not aware of any contract with the company, nor any such arrangements with them.
The letter TKO Sports sent SLAC read, "We are getting ready to do the Spring 2022 set of all sports athletic t-shirts for West H.S. These are the really cool looking shirts that the kids wear and sell at all home sporting events throughout the year.
"On the back we feature 8-10 of the best local businesses who help out by sponsoring the shirts with an ad on them. It's a great way to advertise and to support the kids at the same time as the shirts go out to the parents, friends and fans at all the home games throughout the year."
It went on to say it was a way to feature "awesome sponsors" and that 100 percent of the money raised would stay with the school.
Representatives from TKO Sports, including owner Jeff Kirk, said they would send the contract with the school to FOX 13 News, but no contract was ever received by the station.
Other representatives said they would send the contract to SLAC directly, but the theater said if the school said it has no contract with TKO Sports, then they don't trust whatever paperwork is sent their way.
TKO Sports could not explain why neither the principal not the athletic director of West High School had ever heard of them, other than to say perhaps the school's personnel had changed.
For now, Black wants to alert other businesses seeking to be responsible community partners to be wary of offers with red flags — such as out-of-state vendors looking to support local schools.
This is not the first time schools have warned others about TKO. In 2017, the Associated Press reported how TKO Sports used the names of high schools to get businesses to sponsor ads, even though the schools did not do business with them.
Utah was named among the five states that had complaints on file with the Better Business Bureau in Texas about TKO Sports.