Another retailer has apologized for a clothing design criticized as insensitive to military service members.
This time, PacSun removed a T-shirt emblazoned with an upside-down American flag from its stores after people bombarded the retailer’s Facebook page and said it was disrespectful to promote the shirt over Memorial Day weekend. The move came just days after Under Armour pulled its “Band of Ballers” shirt after a similar social media backlash.
“Out of respect for those who have put their lives on the line for our country, we have decided to stop selling the licensed flag t-shirt and are removing it from our stores and website immediately,” the Anaheim, Calif.-based retailer said in a statement on Monday evening. “We thank the men and women in uniform for their extraordinary service.”
The PacSun controversy began Saturday after a shopper posted a Facebook photo of a Foley, Ala., store display that prominently featured the shirt. By Tuesday morning, the shirt was gone from PacSun’s online store.
According to the U.S. Flag Code, “the flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”
The shirt prompted calls for a boycott, with actor James Woods among those calling on people to #BoycottPacSun:
Earlier this month, Baltimore-based Under Armour apologized for the “Band of Ballers” shirt, which featured a design that seemed to draw inspiration from Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photo of servicemen raising the flag on Iwo Jima during World War II.
That image is replicated in the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial.
Outrage directed at PacSun picked up steam on a weekend dedicated to honoring fallen service members. Some pointed out that an inverted flag has been used in branding and promotional materials in the past, to little backlash.
Others posted on PacSun’s Facebook page that an inverted flag symbolizes a nation in distress and that the shirt is intended as a political message.
The black-and-white shirt is made by A$AP Worldwide, the clothing line of hip-hop collective A$AP Mob. One of the group’s best-known members, A$AP Rocky, has donned an American flag on album covers.
In 2013, Rolling Stone asked the rapper about the statement he was trying to make by using American flag imagery.
“That’s a political view,” he said. “Society lives by rules and laws that are man-made, but anything man-made can be broken. When you break rules, sometimes it’s justified for the penalty. And there are always certain forces that are trying to restrict you.
“We’re all misunderstood, and the flag represents that. We’re trying to represent for the wars that our generation faces. I want us to all be united. It’s bigger than music, straight up.”
In the Monday statement about the T-shirt, PacSun also said that it is “a retailer grounded in youth culture” and that the company “values artistic and creative expression through the brands that we sell in our stores.”