Lululemon has fired its senior global art director after he shared a coronavirus-themed shirt design widely panned as racist. The $60 shirt titled "Bat Fried Rice" from California artist Jess Sluder featured chopsticks and a Chinese takeout box marked with bat wings and the words "no thank you" in wonton font. Trevor Fleming linked to the design on his since-deleted Instagram account, where it was spotted by Kevin Huang, executive director of the nonprofit Hua Foundation. "More #COVID19 racism by linking bats (incorrect virus source; it's undetermined) with the iconic Chinese American takeout container & fried rice," Huang tweeted Sunday. He shared a screenshot of the link on Fleming's profile and tagged Lululemon for good measure.
Stressing the "offensive" shirt was not its own design, the Canadian athlesiure brand soon apologized. "The image and the post were inappropriate and inexcusable and we do not tolerate this behavior," a company rep says, per USA Today. "We acted immediately, and the person involved is no longer an employee of lululemon." Citing reports of attacks against Asian Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic, social media users had threatened to boycott the brand if it didn't take swift action. Fleming has since apologized to anyone he hurt. "It is something I deeply regret" and "I commit to standing up against racist or discriminatory behavior," he tells NBC News. Sluder didn't respond to a request for comment after promoting the shirt with the hashtag #humornothate. (Read more Lululemon stories.)