Red Cross Apologizes for Poster

The Red Cross tried to be inclusive by showing kids of different races in its "Be Cool, Follow the Rules" poster about pool safety. But when you look closely, you see that most white kids are "cool," and most kids of color are "not cool." 

Red Cross Pool Poster

The "not cool" kids of color are running, diving over a white kid, and pushing a white kid. The Red Cross responded directly to tweets, for example, "@EmmyBetzThank you for bringing this to our attention. We're removing this from our site immediately & are creating new materials," and "@Jsawyer330We removed this poster within 24 hours. We didn't scrutinize it like we should have, and apologize for any offense." 

In addition, the organization issued this statement:

Red Cross Issues Statement on Water Safety Poster

Monday, June 27, 2016 (Washington, D.C.) – The American Red Cross appreciates and is sensitive to the concerns raised regarding one of the water safety posters we produced. We deeply apologize for any misunderstanding, as it was absolutely not our intent to offend anyone. As one of the nation's oldest and largest humanitarian organizations, we are committed to diversity and inclusion in all that we do, every day.

To this end, we have removed the poster from our website and Swim App and have discontinued production. We have notified all of our partner aquatic facilities requesting they take down the poster. Our organization has emphasized to our partners and on social media that it was absolutely not our intent to offend anyone and apologized for this inadvertent action. We are currently in the process of completing a formal agreement with a diversity advocacy organization for their guidance moving forward.

For more than 100 years, part of the Red Cross mission has been to help everyone be safe in, on and around the water. Countless lives have been saved with our water safety educational and aquatics programs. In order to further support our mission and dedication to inclusion, we launched our Aquatics Centennial Campaign ( in 2014. We are working to reduce the drowning rate in 50 high-risk communities over a 5-year period by helping to teach at least 50,000 more children and adults to swim. With this campaign, we are focusing on areas with higher-than-average drowning rates and participants who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity to take swim lessons.

Once again, we apologize for any inadvertent misunderstanding with regard to the production of this poster, and believe we have taken every step to address the situation.

Discussion Starters: 

  • What's your view of the poster? A lifeguard called it "super racist." Do you agree?
  • Assess the Red Cross's statement. How does the organization use principles of persuasion to address concerns?