Tasteless Tee Alert: Under Armour, Inc. (UA)

Under Armour Inc (NYSE:UA) is only the latest clothing designer guilty of a PR blunder

by Alex Eppstein

Published on May 20, 2015 at 10:37 AM
Updated on Jun 24, 2020 at 10:16 AM

In the wake of Louis C.K.'s uproarious SNL monologue, the Interwebs have been blowing up with debates about whether the comedian crossed the line with his admittedly jaw-dropping jokes. It was predictable, though; we clearly live in a time of "be careful what you say." But, apparently, Under Armour Inc (NYSE:UA) didn't get that memo.

On Monday morning, the athletic apparel brand was forced to pull -- and apologize for -- its "Band of Ballers" t-shirt, following a public outcry. The top depicted a group of men lifting a basketball hoop, after the likeness of the Marine Corps War Memorial. "We deeply regret and apologize that a T-shirt that was not reflective of our values in honoring and supporting our country's heroes went on sale," UA said in a statement, while vowing to "take great measures to ensure this does not happen again."

Lest you assume that this is the first time a major clothing company has misread its audience, I'd like to call to mind a few recent apparel missteps that drew the ire of the social media mobs. In my mind, Urban Outfitters, Inc. (NASDAQ:URBN) -- which got drilled on Tuesday after an earnings miss -- leads the pack, and it's not even close. Earlier this year, the retailer was targeted by the Anti-Defamation League for selling striped pants that looked like concentration camp uniforms. And in late 2014, URBN marketed this "vintage" Kent State sweatshirt, which allegedly made light of the university's 1970 campus shooting.

Looking further back, Gap Inc (NYSE:GPS) in 2012 sold a t-shirt emblazoned with the words "Manifest Destiny." To those unfamiliar, the term refers to the 19th century ideology that the U.S. was divinely appointed to "redeem" the American West, Native Americans be damned.

Finally, in 2011, J C Penney Company Inc (NYSE:JCP) was panned for selling a long-sleeve shirt that read: "I'm too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me." To make matters worse, the retailer's online description of the shirt asked rhetorically, "Who has time for homework when there's a new Justin Bieber album out? She'll love this tee that's just as cute and sassy as she is."

Returning to Under Armour Inc (NYSE:UA), the recent PR misstep has done little to slow the stock's rapid ascent. Year-over-year, the shares have advanced 65% to trade at $77.67, ushered higher in recent weeks by their 80-day moving average.

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