Mar 13, 2017
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Confusion over “racist” T-shirts at Spreadshirt, tops still on some sites but axed from others

Mar 13, 2017

Spreadshirt, the German company that allows people to upload their own T-shirt slogans, has defended carrying two designs on its site that have been branded racist on social media. But while it has said it will not pull the designs, they do appear to have been removed from some of its international sites.

Users can upload and edit T-shirt slogans on Spreadshirt's site

The company, which says it is  one of the world’s leading e-commerce platforms for on-demand printing of clothing and accessories, has been carrying two T-shirts created by users Quentin1984 and Monigote. One has the slogan “Save a shark, eat a Chinese” and the other says “Save a dog, eat a Chinese”.

While the company said the “eat a Chinese” reference relates to Chinese food, many of those commenting on social media said it suggested people should eat a Chinese person and was clearly racists. The Chinese Embassy in Berlin has called on the firm to pull the T-shirts from its site and an online petition calling for an apology has also been launched.

While the items do appear to have been removed from the German, US and Australian sites, they are still available on others, including the UK.

Slightly confusingly, Spreadshirt issued a statement suggesting it would not back down on any of its sites, saying it has discussed the two “community-submitted designs” and “after close examination and careful consideration, we have decided to keep these designs on our platform.”

CEO Philip Rooke justified the decision saying that the company provides an open platform that allows anyone to create, buy, sell, and share ideas on merchandise. “These ideas come from a wide variety of sources. Our community includes over 70,000 active partners worldwide, including a diverse group of artists, musicians, corporations and brands, non-profits and organisations, as well as political groups.”

He added that Spreadshirt’s role is to “enable our community’s ideas to get to market and to fulfil them with print-on-demand. We do not judge or censor designs based on their phrasing, social, or political leanings. This open platform principle will mean that, in a few cases, some people may find a design controversial while others do not. We have no intention of causing anyone offence, and I apologise to anyone who takes any offence from the two designs in question.”

It is not the first time the company has courted controversy with T-shirt designs on its site having previously been accused of violating a variety of taboos including racism, sexism, fat-shaming and encouraging anorexia.

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