Lululemon issues an apology after an employee promoted an offensive T-shirt on social media, provoking a backlash online

Ernesto Distefano/Getty Images‘The image and the post were inappropriate and inexcusable and we do not tolerate this behaviour,’ Lululemon said in a statement to the press.
  • Lululemon has issued a formal apology after one of its art directors promoted a link to a T-shirt on social media that was called out for being racist.
  • The T-shirt was called “bat fried rice” and printed with images of bat-winged chopsticks and a takeout box with the words “No Thank You.”
  • This quickly caused an uproar online.
  • Lululemon confirmed that this was not one of their designs and that the employee had now left the company.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Lululemon has issued a formal apology after one of its art directors promoted a link to a T-shirt on his Instagram page that was related to the COVID-19 virus and was accused of being both racist and offensive.

According to Reuters, the backlash kicked off on Sunday after art director Trevor Fleming shared a link to a t-shirt designed by California artist Jess Sluder called “bat fried rice.”

The T-shirt, which has now been removed from Fleming’s Instagram page and the artist’s website, was printed with images of bat-winged chopsticks and a takeout box with the words “No Thank You.”

The artist, Sluder, included a caption on Instagram that said: “Where did COVID-19 come from? Nothing is certain, but we know a bat was involved.”

He continued: “Beginning today, my limited edition #quarantees are now available. Link in bio or DM for details… Thank you for your support and sense of humour! #humornothat #batfriedrice,” according to multiple screenshots shared online.

This quickly caused an uproar online with social media users sharing screenshots of Fleming’s Instagram page that showed him promoting the product. Others called for an apology from Lululemon and clarification over whether the shirt had been designed by the Canada-headquartered chain.

In a statement to the press and to its customers, Lululemon confirmed that this was not a Lululemon product and said that it “takes matters like this extremely seriously.”

“At lululemon, our culture and values are core to who we are…The t-shirt design is not a lululemon product. We apologise that an employee was affiliated with promoting an offensive t-shirt, and we take this very seriously. The image and the post were inappropriate and inexcusable and we do not tolerate this behaviour. We acted immediately, and the person involved is no longer an employee of lululemon,” the statement said.

Fleming apologised for the incident in a statement shared with Business Insider:

I sincerely apologise for the events that have transpired this week. Although I was in no way involved in the design of the t-shirt, I did make the decision to share a link to it, and I want to acknowledge that this was wrong. It is something I deeply regret, and my eyes have been opened to the profound ripple effect that this mistake has had. I apologise to those that have been hurt by this, as well as to my friends and colleagues at Lululemon who have been impacted by this situation. I commit to standing up against racist or discriminatory behaviour and will work hard to ensure that my personal and professional contributions in the future are kind, inclusive and supportive.

Fleming had been at Lululemon since 2017; his LinkedIn page has now been updated to show that he left the company this month.

He also left a note on his Instagram page apologizing for the incident.

“I did not design the t-shirt, nor did I participate in any part of its creation,” he said.

But some shoppers are already calling for a boycott of the brand and referencing Lululemon’s past and controversial comments previously made by its founder Chip Wilson, who stepped down completely from the company in 2015.

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