Consumer outrage has forced Under Armour to pull its new "Band of Ballers" T-shirt from stores after the design generated outrage by using imagery mimicking the raising of the U.S. flag over Iwo Jima during World War II.
Veterans took to social media to express disdain for the design, which shows four figures raising a basketball hoop above a court. It was inspired by To many veterans, tthe historical event immortalized in the Associated Press photographer taken by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press. But veterans said it 's iconic photograph, cheapened the sacrifice of more than 6,800 Marines, sailors and coasties who died fighting to wrest control of the heavily fortified island from Japanese forces.
"As a U.S. Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, thank you for removing the shirt from further sales," said Joseph Odom on Under Armour's Facebook page under a public apology for the design. "Whoever personally designed this shirt and ... also who approved it for producing should be terminated from [Under Armour]. [sic.] This is outrageous and a complete exhibit of blatant disrespect."
His sentiments were reflective of many Marines' — present and past. Some lashed out via Twitter.
Under Armour quickly apologized for use of the imagery.
Despite widespread outrage, some consumers were unoffended or quick to forgive.
"Veteran here. I am upset about the shirt but I waited for #UnderArmour to issue a statement. They owned up to it and so we move on," wrote David Zellmann, in response to Under Armour's Facebook apology.
Another said that since the shirts are already made they should be repurposed to benefit veterans.
Under Armour is by no means the first company to be flogged by consumers for using the raising of the flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima to market a product or cause.
In 2010, a British Airways employee's union came under fire for using the image during a dispute with the airline over moves to cut costs and reduce its workforce. The union emblazoned "BASSA" for British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association on the flag and "United we stand" below the image.
At the time, the executive director of the Marine Corps War Memorial Foundation, which cares for the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, said it was in poor taste and that he was glad to see that it had upset veterans not just in the U.S., but in the United Kingdom as well.
"The use of this image by this group to promote their agenda is inappropriate and repugnant," Jim Donovan said.
Ralph Lauren also angered ran afoul of troops in 2013 by creating cargo shorts using Marine Pattern digital camouflage. Authentic MARPAT has the eagle, globe and anchor subtly embedded in its pattern. The pattern used by Ralph Lauren simply filled in the EGAs, turning them into brown splotches. It is a practice common on officially licensed Marine apparel, but the Marine Corps officials had no record of licensing the pattern to the fashion designer.
Marines have even used social media to call out individuals like rapper 50 Cent for misusing military uniforms. He has been spotted wearing dress blues as a controversial fashion statement on more than on occasion, while accessorizing the uniform with a baseball cap, or alternately a Navy officer's cover.