Zellers has issued a nationwide clothing recall after a Winnipeg woman complained a children's T-shirt she bought was obscene.
Last week, Ashley Simpson purchased an X Games graphic shirt for her four-year-old. It was emblazoned with a picture of a skateboarder. The X Games logo was printed in large font. There was other small lettering on the shirt.
Simpson admits she didn't read the smaller grey-on-black words until she got the shirt home.
"There were two paragraphs repeated," she says. "There was something about listening to (rap group) Mafia, going up to Santa Monica Boulevard, a guy spotting some trannies (transsexuals). Then it said: 'We started egging some trannies and that was some fun.'"
The shirt also had the words: "What the f**k?"
Ashley Simpson is stunned a shirt that was made in sizes 2X to 6X would contain the messages.
"I showed it to a couple of people. They thought I was kidding. How could you have this on a kids' rack?
"It's hate-mongering. What kind of parent would want their child wearing this?"
X Games Clothing is produced by ESPN Consumer Products. ESPN is, in turn, owned by the Walt Disney Co. An ESPN company spokesperson initially claimed the shirt might have been pirated but she later admitted there was no evidence to support the charge.
Late Tuesday afternoon, New York-based Chris Brush, the vice-president of marketing for ESPN, called to clarify. He confirmed that an investigation is underway to see how the shirt design got through.
"We apologize to our customers and our fans out there," Brush said. "It is clearly an isolated situation."
All the T-shirts have been removed from stores and destroyed, he said.
Brush said one thing is clear: "It really is a failure in our review process."
Simpson returned to the Southdale Zellers, complained and got her money back. A clerk told her the shirts had been pulled. A spokesperson for HBC, the parent company of Zellers, said the recall was immediate.
"In the case of this specific product, a customer brought to our attention their concerns with some of language in the small print of the shirt design. We immediately looked into the matter and have removed the product from our stores," her statement read.
"We take all customer concerns seriously and have been in contact with both the customer as well as the vendor regarding this matter."
That's news to Simpson, who says neither HBC nor Zellers have contacted her.
"They gave me my money back. That was it."
The shirt was not sold at the Bay. The clothing line, minus the offending garment, is still being sold at Zellers. The recalled shirt was not sold in the U.S.
Simpson said she was attracted to the shirt because "it looked funky." X Games, both the clothing line and related competitions in sports such as skateboarding, snowboarding and surfing, attract huge audiences. Fans are primarily male.
"I thought it was hip and I'd like to think I'm a hip mother," said the 35-year-old. "I'd just like to hope that the person who is shopping for next year's line is a little more careful."
She knows she will be.