Miami Marlins and Heat Jerseys Become Masks for Healthcare Workers

The Miami Marlins are turning their jerseys and other merch into masks.
The Miami Marlins are turning their jerseys and other merch into masks. Photo courtesy of the Miami Marlins
If there's one thing we've learned over the course of the past month, it's the abbreviation "PPE." We know this because personal protective equipment is a hot commodity that's increasingly rare to come by. And for first responders and healthcare workers on the front lines of the coronavirus epidemic, PPE is lifesaving gear that is vital to their jobs. 

Unfortunately, some healthcare workers have had to get creative in the absence of certified PPE. Just the other day, a New York doctor tweeted a photo of a Yankees poncho he was given as his protective gear for the day. Numerous stories have popped up about medical workers MacGyvering sleep-apnea equipment and scuba gear into protective masks. What's worse, some doctors and nurses say they're wearing the same N95 masks for days, if not weeks, because it's all they have.

It really shouldn't be this way, but it's the harsh reality of what the people tasked with saving lives are facing. Not only that, but also, as Miami and other cities issue mandates for citizens to cover their faces inside grocery stores and other public places, masks are increasingly difficult to find.

Luckily, the Miami Marlins and Miami Heat heard those cries and have teamed up with suppliers and seamstresses to turn some of their apparel into masks.

#WRECares, launched by Miami-based media agency World Red Eye, has announced it'll team up with the Marlins to help provide much-needed supplies to the frontline heroes during the COVID-19 crisis. The Marlins donated nearly 1,000 pieces of clothing, including home and road jerseys, uniform pants, and T-shirts, to help seamstresses and designers who are working tirelessly to produce masks for the community.

The Marlins say their 1,000 items will be made into more than 7,500 masks that will be distributed to essential employees with the Miami Police Department and the University of Miami Health System. Seth Browarnik, founder of the photo agency World Red Eye and #WRECares, says he wanted to get involved when the coronavirus outbreak hit and figured this was the best way to do so.

"When the COVID-19 crisis hit, I immediately pivoted my site to become an informative hub and used my best asset — my vast network — to bring resources together and relief to those in need," he says in a press release. "During this time, it quickly became apparent that face masks were one of the most needed items on the front lines. I coordinated a team of designers and seamstresses to literally produce masks overnight. To date, our team has produced almost 5,000 masks in just over a week. We have been able to donate these masks to save lives."
For the Heat's part, the team recently announced it's working with Refried Apparel to turn $100,000 worth of unsold jerseys into 7,000 masks that can be donated to Miami-area healthcare facilities. According to the Heat, the masks will be two-ply, made from cotton and cotton-blend T-shirts, and provide filtration and particle capture as well as breathability. Though the final product won't be surgical-grade, the masks will likely be appreciated by medical staff, first responders, nursing-home employees, and other essential workers during this critical shortage.

According to Andy Montero, vice president of retail business and development for the Heat, the idea to turn old gear into masks may help save lives.

"I remembered we were sitting on some former players' jerseys and T-shirts and I thought to myself, 'Let's recycle these into something useful and donate them to those brave folks on the front lines of this pandemic,'" Montero says in a press release. "We're stuck in our houses, but I'm so happy we are finding ways to help."

We all miss sports, but seeing the good deeds that teams are doing during these hard times reminds us that our sports franchises are so much more than entertainment: They're neighbors and, more important, a part of our community.
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Ryan Yousefi is a freelance writer for Miami New Times, a lover of sports, and an expert consumer of craft beer and pho. Hanley Ramirez once stole a baseball from him and to this day still owes him $10.
Contact: Ryan Yousefi