PacSun, the Anaheim-based teen retailer known for its surf and skate apparel, spent its Memorial Day apologizing for a T-shirt featuring an upside-down American flag.
PacSun used its Facebook and Twitter accounts to retract the T-shirt, but not before many consumers took to their own social media accounts to blast the retailer for insensitivity, especially over a holiday weekend dedicated to honoring the men and women who died serving their country.
The controversy appears to have picked up speed after a woman snapped a picture of the T-shirt in a store window in Foley, Ala., and denounced it on Facebook: "I understand freedom of speech but this shirt, displayed prominently at the entrance of your store, for Memorial Day weekend is more distasteful and disrespectful than anything I thought I'd see. I will not be shopping at PacSun again."
Within hours, that Facebook post would be shared more than 7,000 times, with many critics saying the image of the upside-down flag dishonored the nation's military men and women.
Among those spreading the outrage was a verified Twitter account belonging to actor James Woods:
On Monday, PacSun got the message.
PacSun will stop selling licensed flag T-shirt. Full statement here: https://t.co/OURJbnDKfU— PacSun (@PacSun) May 25, 2015
The statement posted on its Facebook page said:
"As a retailer grounded in youth culture, PacSun values artistic and creative expression through the brands that we sell in our stores. Out of respect for those who have put their lives on the line for our country, we have decided to stop selling the licensed flag t-shirt and are removing it from our stores and website immediately. We thank the men and women in uniform for their extraordinary service."
Efforts to reach a spokesperson for the company via its website were unsuccessful Monday night.
Not everyone was offended by the T-shirt.
"It's just a shirt," said one commenter on PacSun's Facebook post. "People are only making [a] big deal now cause it's memorial day, even though the whole weekend people use it as an excuse to party and throw yearly sales to make money."
Others saw a nuanced, artistic message in the T-shirt, noting that flying the American flag upside down is a signal of extreme distress.
"Keep it," another poster urged PacSun. "It's not disrespectful or [unpatriotic], the upside down flag is traditionally a sign of distress. Can anyone argue our country is not in distress?"
On Twitter @renelynch