Reebok has apologized for a “design error” that led to the release of a Ultimate Fighting Championship T-shirt that ignited controversy in Ireland. The shirt, which has been pulled from Reebok’s website, shows a map of the Republic of Ireland with “Ireland” emblazoned across the chest. The problem is that the island of Ireland also includes the country Northern Ireland—noticably absent from the shirt.
To add fuel to the fire, Reebok promoted with the tag line, “Show your UFC territorial allegiance with this UFC Ireland map tee,” evoking images of centuries of violence between the two countries that make up the island of Ireland.
The shirt caught the attention of noted UFC coach John Kavanagh of the famous Straight Blast Gym in Dublin, who vowed to end his gym’s new relationship with Reebok if the shirt was not removed. After Reebok pulled the shirt, Kavanagh tweeted a statement that read, in part, “My girlfriend is from Belfast, a city that has experienced a lot of senseless killings on both sides. This type of rhetoric only serves to fuel negative emotions and brings out the worst in us.”
It’s possible this was an honest mistake, but so far as “design errors” go, this one was a doozy.