Senior global art director Trevor Fleming, whose social media accounts now have all been deactivated, posted the design featuring a Chinese takeout box and pair of chopsticks with bat wings on his Instagram on Sunday. The design was created by California artist Jess Sluder who was selling it digitally for $60.
“Where did COVID-19 come from? Nothing is certain, but we know a bat was involved,” the artist wrote in a post of the design online.
Lululemon later announced that Fleming “is no longer an employee.” Neither Fleming nor Sluder responded to requests from Fox News for comment.
A scientific consensus is still evolving, but the World Health Organization said the virus originated in bats in the wild. Sources have told Fox News that there is increasing confidence the naturally occurring virus was being studied in a Wuhan lab and escaped – as opposed to claims it originated instead in a nearby wet market.
Critics took to social media with their outrage, calling the T-shirt racist.
“There have been 100+ daily attacks on Asian Americans since the start of #COVID19,” wrote one user on Twitter along with photos of the T-shirt. “To see people adding to the hurt & racism hurts my heart.”
Lululemon apologized for the shirt, noting the image didn’t align with the core values of its athletic brand.
"We take matters like this extremely seriously. The T-shirt design is not a Lululemon product. We apologize 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 behavior. We acted immediately, and the person involved is no longer an employee of Lululemon," a company spokesperson for Lululemon said in a statement.