Here’s a question for the ages: Does the company that manufactures a T-shirt bearing a noose and the words “hang loose,” perchance, farm its marketing to the public relations firm

?

Inquiring minds want to know. Both TJ Maxx and the Irvine, Calif., beachwear company Tavik, which makes the shirt, were slammed on Twitter Monday night after user @PsychoGF_ shared a picture of the T-shirt with a TJ Maxx price tag. She added some text in a bar across the bottom: “Why is this a shirt?”

“We sincerely apologize for any offense caused by this T-shirt,” Tavik’s PR manager, Kelly McElroy said in a statement to The Washington Post. “This item was released without going through proper protocols and has zero relation to anything other than surfing. We will be pulling this item from retailers immediately.”

TJ Maxx had not responded to a request for comment last night.

Though the shirt is pictured with a TJ Maxx pricetag in the photo that began circulating on Twitter, it appears backcountry.com was still offering the shirt on its Web site for $13.17, describing it as “PLEASANTLY PROVOCATIVE.”

A Backcountry customer, WhoDat, posted this review on Dec. 16, 2014:

Ive gotten mixed reactions to this shirt. Ive had a guy accuse this shirt of having some racist agenda behind it. Ive had one person complain that it promotes violence. Just, be warned about the audience when you wear it, is what Im saying.
Im a fan of graveyard humor, so I thought the shirt was funny and Ive had plenty of people dig it.

Well, now everyone can discuss it at Starbucks, which for some reason is attempting to enter the national conversation on race by encouraging its baristas to talk about the subject with customers. This is real; Starbucks chief executive Howard Schultz is backing a new initiative called “Race Together.”