Urban Outfitters Offends Again

What could be wrong with selling a blood-splatter-patterned sweatshirt? Urban Outfitters has apologized for putting up for a sale a "vintage" shirt with the Kent State logo. If you missed the history lesson, four students were shot in 1970 at Kent State during a political protest.

Urban Outfitters Kent

Urban Outfitters issued this apology:

"Urban Outfitters sincerely apologizes 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 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."

Kent State weighed into the controversy as well:

Kent State response

This isn't the first time Urban Outfitters introduced an offensive product. The Week chronicled 12 more. 

Discussion Starters:

  • Is Urban Outfitters intentionally offending? What are the advantages and disadvantages of this advertising strategy?
  • Assess the company's response. Does it meet criteria for an effective apology?
  • Discuss Kent State's response. Do you think it was wise for the university to weigh in? Why would administrators issue a statement, and what could be the consequences?