Democrat Rep. Stephanie Murphy Holds Patent for Softball Pants Husband’s Company Manufactures in China

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) speaks at a panel discussion on disinformation and the 2020 campaign co-hosted by PEN America; Ellen L. Weintraub, Chair, U.S. Federal Election Commission; and the Global Digital Policy Incubator at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center on September 17, 2019 at the FEC in Washington, DC. …
Paul Morigi/Getty Images for PEN America

Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) holds a patent for women’s softball pants that her husband’s company manufactures in China.

The revelations, which have been explored before in local news but never in a national political context, come as the Democrat Party battles a rising image of tone deafness with American workers and the perception of the party’s increased coziness with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). They also come amid rising concerns that American sports have waded too far into domestic political skirmishes while not being critical at all of serious human rights abuses by Beijing.

Representatives for Murphy, who represents the battleground 7th congressional district in Florida, have not replied to a request for comment or an interview with the congresswoman about her husband’s company manufacturing softball apparel she helped develop per the U.S. patent in China. But this story could prove critical as Democrats and Republicans alike closely watch her and this district in particular ahead of the upcoming 2022 midterm elections because of the fact it is rated by the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voting Index to be evenly split among registered Republicans and Democrats.

Murphy, who is considering running against Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) statewide as the Florida GOP senator prepares his own reelection bid, has been named to National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) lists watching for which Democrat House members may “exit” and thereby not run for reelection to their House seats. If Murphy pursues a statewide bid like for the U.S. Senate, and abandons her House seat, that would represent yet another loss for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whose already-slim majority is in grave danger of falling back to the Republicans in the upcoming midterm election. Democrats lost a number of House seats in the 2020 congressional elections, and hold just a five-seat majority—which is really a three-seat majority right now because of vacancies created by the death of Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and the confirmation of now Interior Secretary Deb Haaland which opened her previously Democrat-held congressional seat in New Mexico’s first congressional district up to a special election on June 1. That’s why whatever Murphy decides to do is going to be critical for Democrats in the House in terms of being able to pass President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda, and for the GOP in the House in terms of Republicans’ chances to retake the majority next year. In fact, just Wednesday morning, former Politico reporter Jake Sherman—who now runs a boutique newsletter service called Punchbowl—detailed how Murphy is one of the Democrats to watch as the maneuvering over whether Biden’s so-called “infrastructure” package stands a chance in the House. Sherman’s newsletter cited Murphy’s office saying of Biden’s tax-and-spending plan Democrats claim is an “infrastructure” bill that she “hasn’t taken a position on it yet.”

What’s more, the fact that Murphy’s husband’s company is manufacturing a product for which she is at least partially responsible for inventing in China runs counter to her public rhetoric claiming she is tough on China. In a late March tweet, for example, Murphy called the Chinese Communist Party “an adversary and competitor” of the United States:

In a recent interview with the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin, Murphy—who is a Vietnamese immigrant—said the Chinese Communist Party is trying “to undermine our democracy.” The interview contains many valid broadsides from the congresswoman against the CCP, attacks that are not backed up however by her and her husband’s personal financial gain from a lucrative business arrangement whereby they manufacture their product in China.

Murphy and her husband Sean Murphy are two of three applicants and inventors listed on a 14-year patent dated May 26, 2015, for the “ornamental design for athletic pants” for a product called “NuFit Knickers.” They are also listed as the applicants and investors on a second patent, also for athletic pants, dated Feb. 27, 2017—after Stephanie Murphy was a member of Congress, as she was first elected in 2016—for a 15-year patent also for an “ornamental design for athletic pants.” The women’s softball apparel, sold through Sean Murphy’s 3n2 Sports, are according to the company’s website are “a fit so perfect it’s patented.” The website repeatedly hypes the fact that the pants designs are patented as one of the main features of the product.

Sean Murphy, the congresswoman’s husband, is the CEO of 3n2 Sports—a sports apparel and shoe company that was originally founded by a Nike engineer. The company’s name is a play on the idea of a full count in baseball—three balls and two strikes—and the company had fallen on tough times when in 2008 Sean Murphy and Marty Graham, a partner of his in a wine distribution business, stepped in to buy the company. More than a decade later, in the company’s latest LLC document filings with the state of Florida and on its website, Sean Murphy remains an officer of the company and its CEO.

The congresswoman’s earliest financial disclosure report filed in September 2016 indicate that her husband was drawing a salary from 3n2, and that she personally was paid a consulting fee of greater than $5,000 by 3n2. Her full 2016 disclosure filed in spring 2017 lists 3n2 as a source of spousal income but does not list an exact amount. Her 2017 financial disclosure reports—both the original and amended ones, both filed in May 2018—do not mention 3n2 at all. Her 2018 and 2019 reports, filed in 2019 and 2020 respectively, do list 3n2 as a source of spousal income but do not list an amount. The 2019 report filed in 2020 lists 3n2 as a spousal asset valued between $1,001 and $15,000.

In November 2017, a year after she first won her House seat in the 2016 congressional elections with support from then-President Barack Obama—defeating then incumbent GOP Rep. John Mica (R-FL)—a series of reports emerged in local media in Florida detailing how the NuFit Knickers were manufactured in China.

First up was a Tampa Bay Times report from Alex Leary, headlined: “Rep. Stephanie Murphy stresses U.S. manufacturing but tied to sports gear made in China.” The sub-headline was even more brutal: “She invented softball pants that her husband’s company has made overseas.”

In the story, Leary reveals that the NuFit Knickers are “manufactured in China” and that both the company 3n2 and the congresswoman’s congressional office were not too forthcoming about that fact. “Ms. Murphy does not receive any royalties related to the patent, and she is not currently employed or contracted by 3N2 in any capacity,” her then-spokesman Javier Hernandez told Leary for the Tampa Bay Times story. “As 3N2 is a private company, all questions regarding 3N2’s operations, including its production processes, should be directed to the company itself.”

Leary’s story also cites 3n2 company spokesman Josh Pollack as having “ignored a question about the manufacturing origin of the pants” but saying the company has ‘multiple manufacturing facilities in the USA and abroad.’”

Leary continued in his Nov. 2, 2017, article:

He noted in an email Wednesday morning, without specifics, that the company employs “many people right here in Central Florida.”

“Given that 97% of the garments sold in the U.S. are made overseas, we are proud of our ability to produce domestically,” Pollack wrote.

The Times promptly replied with follow-up questions but an auto-reply said Pollack is away from the office until Nov. 8, and he did not respond.

Similarly, a follow-up email to CEO Sean Murphy has not been not returned as of late Wednesday.

That led to a story the next day, on Nov. 3, 2017, in the Orlando Sentinel that focused on how Florida companies—3n2 was one of those highlighted—are having to “race to meet fast delivery expectations.”

Sean Murphy, the congresswoman’s husband and CEO of 3n2, is quoted extensively in the story along with other local companies’ executives discussing matters related to speedy distribution of custom-made products.

“The internet has changed everything, and now people think they can get anything in two days or less, even if it has to be custom made,” Sean Murphy said.

One of the undertones in the article, however, is how Murphy’s company manufactures core items including the softball pants the congresswoman holds a patent for in China.

“3N2 is trying to overhaul its production process to have certain products customized faster, Murphy said, while putting other products in Amazon fulfillment warehouses for custom delivery. It can be a challenge when many products, such as the company’s cleats and pants, are still made in places such as China,” the Orlando Sentinel’s Kyle Arnold wrote. “Murphy said they can make the product there at a lower cost. 3N2 also makes custom-designed designs jerseys and uniforms printed by two partner factories in the United States.”

In the next paragraph, Arnold writes about how Sean Murphy is U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s husband, noting that she “drew scrutiny this week because of her involvement in 3N2 and her political advocacy for small and medium-sized manufacturers in the United States.”

“Rep. Murphy has helped design products for 3N2, such as a line of fitted softball pants for women,” Arnold wrote.

Then, he cites Sean Murphy as saying the reason why the congresswoman’s softball pants are manufactured in China rather than in the United States is because “manufacturing in China is necessary to be competitive with market leaders such as Nike, Under Armour and Adidas.”

“One thing we’ve been working on is a system where customers can submit their designs and it can be printed pretty much immediately at the factory [in the U.S.],” Murphy said. “We think if we can cut down on design, we can print the same day they order and get it out the door.”

The congresswoman herself has never actually addressed this in an interview or statement, only through comments her husband or her congressional office staff have made. Other local media and a couple national outlets did pick up on the story a few years ago, but Murphy has never seriously addressed these concerns ever. She did run away from questions about it on Capitol Hill in November 2017:

Again, her staff did not reply to efforts from Breitbart News to interview her about it. It remains to be seen if any journalist anywhere will ever ask her during an interview why she claims to be tough on China yet her husband’s business manufactures a product for which she is listed on the patent in China supposedly at a price point lower than if the company had made the product in America.

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