Lululemon has issued an apology after former employee Trevor Fleming advertised a link to a “bat fried rice” T-shirt design created by California artist Jess Sluder on his Instagram. The drawing depicts a bat inside a Chinese takeout container with “no thanks” written on the side.
According to NBC News, many social media users quickly slammed the image as racist. They claimed that sharing it was in poor taste, given the documented rise of targeted hatred toward Asian Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic. Dozens of Twitter users vowed to boycott the company.
On Twitter, Kamauri Yeh wrote that incidents like this one are a painful reminder of how many Asian Americans are suffering from racism.
There have been 100+ daily attacks on Asian Americans since the start of #COVID19. To see people adding to the hurt & racism hurts my heart. I hope someone picks up this story and these individuals take responsibility. I am more proud than ever to be part of the AA community. ✊???? pic.twitter.com/nWy9WJeMVE
— Kamauri Yeh (@yehwho) April 19, 2020
Sluder first advertised the T-shirt design in a now-deleted Instagram post that accompanied the following caption.
“Where did COVID-19 come from? Nothing is certain, but we know a bat was involved. Beginning today, my limited edition #quarantees are now available.”
The outlet says he used the hashtag #batfriedrice in his post. The artist did not respond to NBC News‘ request for comment.
“At Lululemon, our culture and values are core to who we are, and we take matters like this extremely seriously,” said a spokesperson for the Canadian company.
The statement continued, saying the company found the post “inexcusable” and would not “tolerate this behaviour” from their employees.
Fleming also issued an apology on his LinkedIn profile and said he did not participate in the creation of the design, while admitting he should not have shared it.
He wrote that he deeply regretted sharing the link and that the mistake helped him understand “the profound ripple effect” his decision had on the Asian American community. He committed to standing up against racism and discrimination in the future.
He previously worked as the art director for Lululemon’s global brand. NBC News says the company has not officially acknowledged the reason for Fleming’s departure.
This incident is not the first time a Lululemon employee has been accused of racism.
Founder Chip Wilson has admitted to naming the company with multiple “L’s” because he thought it would make the brand sound “innately North American,” as Japanese phonetics do not include an “L” sound.
“It’s funny to watch them try and say it,” said Wilson, referring to how Japanese customers pronounce “Lululemon.”
While Wilson has since stepped down from the board of directors, he never publically responded to the criticism he received for his comment.