A sweatshirt being sold by Urban Outfitters featuring fake blood stains and tattered edges with the logo of Kent State University, where four students were killed in a 1970 incident that shocked America, is “beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life,” university officials said Monday.
The $129 vintage Kent State University sweatshirt is “washed soft and perfectly broken in,” the clothier’s website boasts, offering a loose, “slouchy” fit for those seeking gruesome reminders to the campus killings that rocked the nation, leaving nine others wounded.
“We take great offense to a company using our pain for their publicity and profit,” university officials said in a statement to FoxNews.com. “This item is beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today.”
“This shows the continued lowbrow of Wall Street, and Urban Outfitters continues to perpetuate a low standard of ethics,” Dean Kahler, 64, who was paralyzed in the shootings, told FoxNews.com. “I invite anybody who has been made aware of this now to visit the May 4 Visitors Center at Kent State in person or online.”
Emily Vincent, the school’s director of media relations, invited the company’s brass, as well as anyone who invested in the item, to “gain perspective” on the incident by touring the school’s May 4 Visitors Center, which opened two years ago to commemorate the shootings by the Ohio National Guard.
“May 4, 1970, was a watershed moment for the country and especially the Kent State family,” the statement continues. “We lost four students that day while nine others were wounded and countless others were changed forever.”
The sweatshirt, which comes with faux spattered blood and tattered edges, was no longer available on the company’s website as of Monday morning, but some critics took note prior to the decision.
“Officially done patronizing urban outfitters and any of their affiliates,” one Twitter post read. “I am all for bold statements when done respectfully.”
Another Twitter post read: “Will there be Columbine and Sandy Hook style [available] too?”
Company officials, meanwhile, insist they never intended to allude to the shootings.
"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," a statement released Monday read. "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 discoloration 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."
Urban Outfitters has been previously criticized for insensitive or intentionally outrageous clothing, including a T-shirt that simply featured the word “depression” and appropriation of Native American patterns and icons.
A listing on the company’s website earlier indicated that just one sweatshirt was available for purchase and one user on eBay has reportedly claimed to have paid $550.
President Richard Nixon, in a statement at the time, said the national tragedy should remind all Americans that when “dissent turns to violence” it invites tragedy.
“It is my hope that this tragic and unfortunate incident will strengthen the determination of all the nation's campuses, administrators, faculty and students alike to stand firmly for the right which exists in this country of peaceful dissent and just as strong against the resort to violence as a means of such expression,” Nixon said.