The recent furor over its faux-bloodstained Kent State sweatshirt isn’t the only controversy the company has been involved in.
On Monday, Urban Outfitters made headlines when it posted for sale on its website a Kent State sweatshirt. There’s nothing controversial about selling a college sweatshirt, but selling a sweatshirt that appears to be stained with blood at a college where the National Guard killed four students and injured an additional 10 in 1970 is truly disgusting.
Urban Outfitters apologized, but claimed it was a total coincidence that what looked like a bloodstained sweatshirt happened to bear the name of the college that became a “bloodstained symbol of the rising student rebellion against the Nixon Administration and the war in Southeast Asia,” as Time Magazine put it weeks after the shooting. Urban Outfitters was so contrite it actually took to Twitter to issue its apology. It used twitlonger, since 140 characters just doesn’t cut it when apologizing for making light of a historically significant national tragedy.
Urban Outfitters sincerely apologizes for any offense our Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt may have caused. It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970 and we are extremely saddened that this item was perceived as such. The one-of-a-kind item was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection. There is no blood on this shirt nor has this item been altered in any way. The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray. Again, we deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively and we have removed it immediately from our website to avoid further upset.
It is possible that nobody at Urban Outfitters who reviewed the sweatshirt thought the discoloration looked like a piece of evidence from a Dexter episode. It’s also possible that nobody who worked at Urban Outfitters knew the bloody history of Kent State. But here’s a question. If Urban Outfitters were so torn up about it, wouldn’t it remove the “vintage Kent State Sweatshirt,” which was going for a mere $130, from its website? As of Tuesday night, the company had the item listed as sold out. There is no image, but it seems like a better PR, damage-control and moral move would be removing the whole page.
For arguments sake, let’s give Urban Outfitters the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say they didn’t see the blood imagery, didn’t know about Kent state, didn’t have the IT power to remove the page and were forced to leave it listed as sold out. One big problem remains: Urban Outfitter’s extremely bad track record of selling offensive products. Even the store admits its history makes its actions pretty hard to forgive. In another apology released Tuesday, Urban Outfitters continued to claim ignorance, but conceded,
this truth does not excuse us from our failure to identify potential controversial products head on. We, as a company who caters to a college-age demographic, have a responsibility to uphold to our customers. Given our history of controversial issues, we understand how our sincerity may be questioned.
Let’s review the previous eight controversial issues Urban Outfitters has been involved with. Continue reading