Is this a completely distasteful 'viral marketing ploy' - or just a horrifying gaffe?
Urban Outfitters has been at the receiving end of an online backlash after it appeared to use the deaths of of students at Kent State University as a social media marketing tool.
The company posted a vintage Kent State sweatshirt on its website which appeared to be blood-stained, apparently referring to a campus protest in 1970 that saw the Ohio National Guard open fire on students, killing four and injuring nine.
The jumper was quickly removed after many online users didn't take kindly to the post.
Matt Novak posted a picture of the original description.
Urban Outfitters selling what looks like a blood-soaked Kent State sweatshirt http://t.co/aGgolT139Q via @sarahrichpic.twitter.com/WC6t3TlwWo
- Matt Novak (@paleofuture) September 15, 2014
Ciaran Walsh retweeted the picture and wrote: "Urban Outfitters turn for a complete fashion fail."
Urban Outfitters turn for a complete fashion fail. pic.twitter.com/6kngZlEBjl
- Ciaran Walsh (@kowalshki) September 15, 2014
Rick Wilson felt it was a marketing ploy and wrote: "The @UrbanOutfitters bloody-Kent-State-shirt gaffe isn't a gaffe. It's marketing, which is infinitely worse."
The @UrbanOutfitters bloody-Kent-State-shirt gaffe isn't a gaffe. It's marketing, which is infinitely worse.
- Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) September 15, 2014
However, a spokesman told the Metro this was not the case, saying: "Urban Outfitters sincerely apologises 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 discolouration 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."
Kent State University were nonetheless not happy about the item and, according to the Washington Post, said: "We take great offense to a company using our pain for their publicity and profit.
"This item is beyond poor taste and trivialises a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today.
"We invite the leaders of this company as well as anyone who invested in this item to tour our 4 May Visitors Centre, which opened two years ago, to gain perspective on what happened 44 years ago and apply its meaning to the future."
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