Custom t-shirt company Spreadshirt came under a little bit of fire for a homophobic t-shirt design on their website. The shirt drew immediate criticism from So So Gay Magazine on Twitter, which prompted The Huffington Post to look into things.
Spreadshirt allows people to design their own custom t-shirts, with whatever slogans, sayings, or licensed or original artwork they choose. One person decided that this offensive slogan was suitable for sale. So So Gay posted the design to Twitter with a note to Spreadshirt that said, “Hey @spreadshirt – this isn’t cool.” The tweet is below:
The Huffington Post‘s request for comment from Spreadshirt actually led the company to pull the design and issue the following statement:
Spreadshirt is a provider of an online platform, allowing our customers and partners to customize textiles with their own graphics. Shop partners and designers are solely responsible for the designs they offer in their shops and on our site. However, the design obviously found its way to our marketplaces which we honestly regret… we don’t want to support [content that] unacceptably offends or disrespect against persons because of gender, religious affiliation, political opinion or similar characteristics.
So they admit that their designers and shop partners are responsible for the designs they offer, which is fairly typical. However, Spreadshirt also decided that they didn’t want to be a party to something so hateful as that shirt. They not only pulled the design, they also excluded the shirt from any sales activity, so the seller isn’t going to get any money from it.
There’s an ongoing debate as to what constitutes free speech, and some believe that homophobic speech should be protected under the First Amendment. In 2013, A&E suspended Phil Robertson from the show Duck Dynasty after he made several racist and homophobic remarks. According to Think Progress, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal claimed freedom of speech was in danger when a network could censure someone for “unpopular” comments.
Other Republicans and conservatives came to Robertson’s defense, and slammed A&E for their decision. But these kinds of things reflect badly on companies, which is why they do what A&E, and now Spreadshirt, did. They don’t want to look like they endorse this kind of thing. Had Spreadshirt allowed the t-shirt to sell, it would have been a tacit endorsement of homophobic speech that would have reflected badly on them.
In a world where hate speech and freedom of speech seem to clash more and more, it’s nice to see a company that could shirk responsibility step up and say instead, “No. We’re not endorsing this, we’re not allowing it,” and pulling the offending merchandise.
Featured image via Twitter