(CBS) — Was it really an oversight — or blatant insensitivity?
Those are the questions facing Urban Outfitters this week after the major retailer apologized and pulled a college sweatshirt that some say brings back painful memories.READ MORE: Along With Chicago FOP, Alderman Wants To Repeal COVID Vaccine Mandate
CBS 2’s Brad Edwards explains.
The youth-oriented clothing chain recently was selling a “vintage” Kent State University sweatshirt with splatters of red. Kent State is the college campus in Ohio where four students were killed by National Guard troops in a war protest in 1970.
“We take great offense to a company using our pain for their publicity and profit. This item is beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today,” the university said in response to the sweatshirts.
Urban Outfitters claims there was no connection meant.
“It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970,” the retailer said in a statement.READ MORE: Great Uncle Of Laquan McDonald Defends Decision To Support Rahm Emanuel For Ambassador Of Japan
One Chicago marketing expert, however, speculates the connection was intentional.
“Every year, Urban Outfitters has been coming out with a product line that’s offensive. It’s part of their marketing strategy,” says Joan Phillips of Loyola’s Quinlan School of Business.
She adds: “It’s part of a segmentation strategy. It offends the parents, and it makes it that much more attractive to the market they serve.”
The $129 dollar sweatshirts have been pulled from store shelves, but they’re popping up elsewhere, such as eBay.
Urban Outfitters’ complete statement, posted via Twitter, reads as follows:
“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.”MORE NEWS: 2 People Arrested Following Accidentally Shooting Of 2 Officers In Lyons