Duke to continue selling lacrosse merchandise

Despite the recent sexual assault scandal surrounding its men's lacrosse team, Duke University will continue to allow hats and shirts bearing the "Duke lacrosse" name to be sold at campus bookstores.

"If we pull the gear, people will think we are presuming that the players are guilty," university spokesman Keith Lawrence told ESPN.com on Thursday. "Some might think that because we're still selling it we're saying that they're innocent. We could be criticized either way."

Lawrence said the call, as of now, is to continue to sell lacrosse merchandise.

Since news of the scandal hit, Duke lacrosse gear has become a hot item, including on eBay and at bookstores owned and operated by the university, where sales are three to four times the usual rate.

"I don't think we're taking advantage of the situation," Tom Craig, general manager of retail stores at the Durham, N.C., school, told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

But one national retailer, Dick's Sporting Goods, pulled all Duke lacrosse merchandise from the shelves in its five stores in the Raleigh-Durham area after receiving customer complaints.

There is some ambiguity in that the merchandise merely says "Duke lacrosse." While the men's season was canceled on April 5, the women's team is ranked No. 1 in the country.

"The men's lacrosse team might be in a state of flux, but it still exists," Lawrence said. "And the women's team is obviously still playing."

Lawrence said school officials can't be concerned with the motives of those buying the gear.

"We're not going to interview each purchaser," Lawrence said. "We recognize people are buying it for different reasons. Some want to add support to those on the team, while others just want to make fun of it all.

"We're trying to monitor as many different fronts as we can in this situation and react in a manner that is as clear-headed as we can. But we're committed to letting the legal process unfold."

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.rovell@espn3.com.