Sister of Slain Kent State Protestor Responds to Urban Outfitters’ Blood Spattered Sweatshirt Stunt

Sister of Slain Kent State Protestor Responds to Urban Outfitters’ Blood Spattered Sweatshirt Stunt

MENDOCINO, CA — On Monday, September 15, 2014, in a crass marketing exercise, —shoddily enveloped in deniability— Urban Outfitters made available on their website, a sweatshirt, with a Kent State University insignia, appearing to be tattered and blood spattered.  The launch of this item cut deep with many, triggering painful thoughts of contemporary school shootings, ugly reflections of the current state of police violence in communities, and worse yet, it seemed to relegate the memory of the Kent State University protestors who were brutally murdered by the national guard into a frame of hipster irony.  Pushback was inevitable —a petition was quickly created, media was quick to indict UO on the move, and shortly thereafter the company issued a half-cocked apology.

Perhaps the most disturbing moment in the exchange came on Tuesday September 16, 2014 when Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne refused to speak to Laurel Krause, sister of slain Kent State University student Allison Krause, presumably because he was busy conjuring up this email to UO staff about how the sale was a mistake.

Since Richard Hayne has prioritized courting controversy over reading a letter from a family member of a young woman whose life was stolen by the predicate tragedy, we are posting the complete text of Laurel Krause’s letter here:

“My sister Allison Krause was one of four students killed at Kent State University in May 1970 when United States military personnel opened fire on unarmed students protesting against the Vietnam War. I was 15 at the time and Allison was 19, the age range of many Urban Outfitters customers.

“I was absolutely stunned and appalled to see what appeared to be a blood-splattered Kent State sweatshirt on sale at your online store this week. It brought back the horror of May 4, 1970 and the death of my sister, murdered in a Kent State campus parking lot on that day.

“My family and I were deeply dismayed that no staff member at Urban Outfitters was able to recognize the insensitivity of selling this garment and we question the staffing decisions and product selections of a company meant to be at the forefront of youth culture in America.

“We also feel that your official apology made light of the gravity of the incident. Urban Outfitters failed to recognize their responsibility in this matter. You put profit above people when you sought to make money with this horribly offensive garment and online marketing stunt.

kent state

“We ask Urban Outfitters to make every effort to rectify our injury by acknowledging the true history and significance of the Kent State massacre, which lead to the largest campus protest and strike in US history. Urban Outfitters should turn this disturbing event into an opportunity to educate their customers and greater community about the Kent State Massacre and the lessons that can be learned from it.

“The Kent State Truth Tribunal primarily focuses on education and spreading Kent State truth and justice. We strongly encourage Urban Outfitters to take a meaningful step in the right direction by returning our phone calls so that we may work together to rectify this insult and injury. Many Americans stand by us in our call for Urban Outfitters’ accountability.

Sincerely, Laurel Krause

To arrange an interview with Laurel Krauss please contact Andy Stepanian via email at andy@sparrowmedia.net or by phone at 631.291.3010.

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  1. My views and comments can be seen on Facebook’s KSST pages. I will be surprised if the corporate, insensitive mindset of UO acknowledges the atrocity of their actions. One can hope.

    • The memorial parking stalls should have been forced upon the government and the school decades ago.

      Its routine for government to boast about everything they do on a daily basis through their self glorifying press conferences… and routine for them to try and cover up their crimes against the public.

      What became of the killers who shot the kids? Each one of them should have been prosecuted and jailed along with any “official” or school “authority” who allowed the NG onto campus.

  2. Hmmm sorry, this reads of the same “extortion” tempo as some of the works of Jessie Jackson’s “Rainbow Coalition” to me. I’d gladly purchase one of these shirts and wear it unapologetic-ally. IF a party is allowed to sweep its offenses under a carpet of “political correctness” …then the lessons learned from its mistakes ( accepted, recompensed, regretted -or not) will surely fade from memory and, that, all too soon. The victims of this injustice have their rightful place, albeit horrific, in the history of this nation. That they should quietly be forgotten through some regulatory control of the impact their deaths made, out of convenience to their descendants, rings of absurdity to me. Milking any opportunity to take offense, likewise, is an affront to their suffering of those that actually died. Admittedly, the image of a Kent State jersey, spattered with blood, may well be disturbing (and damned well ought to) to many, perhaps, even all but, a tyrant should never have his eyes pointed at, rather than poked outright.

    • You, sir, are a well-educated IDIOT.

    • You sir, are a horse’s ass.

    • Your stance might be acceptable if the shirt was sold to commemorate that awful event. But it wasn’t, there was card or information provided with the shirt to express the event, it was simply sold as a pop culture shock item and as such, was completely insensitive. It would be as if they sold shirts with ku klux klan emblems, or pictures of lynchings, or neck shackles. Unacceptable. You’re opinion is not based on knowledge or empathy.

      • Bunnie. I guess you did not see urban outfitters KKK ensemble. Google it. We need to call out this and others for what they are and hold them accountable— and boycott until they are not able to insult or hurt anyone anymore for profit and a good laugh in the board room.

    • Ummm … what?
      You have a lot of words. None of them make sense. I can’t even figure out what your opinion is.

    • George Goodman, You, sir, are an internet troll merely seeking attention by espousing reprehensible views. Consider yourself rewarded with our attention, but also know that such pathological behavior reflects your disturbed and damaged psyche. Get help. You’ll be happier in the long run.

    • Seems like George Goodman is one silly rabbit.

    • I suppose “George Goodman” would buy a Columbine shirt with red spatter across it and “wear it un-apologetically” also. I’ts disappointing to see the mindset of some people like this fellow. As, for the rest of his comment…I don’t understand any of that rambling and I don’t think other readers do either. Give it a few more years and Urban Outfitters may try something so insensitive as using more current tragedies for capitol gain. No shame in capitol gain..it’s only a question of who’s insensitive ort ignorant enough to buy it.

    • Seriously? Why don’t you wear this sweatshirt on Monday, the Columbine one on Tuesday, the Virginia Tech one on Wednesday, the Sandy Hook sweatshirt on Thursday, and the Oikos sweatshirt on Friday! Go for it! Show all the families of victims of school massacres what a man you are and that you feel for their pain by reopening their wounds of traumatic loss?

      While you’re at it, don’t forget that for Saturday brunch, you can wear a World Trade Center sweatshirt with people flying out of windows. Hmmm. Maybe for church on Sunday, you can wear something splattered in real blood.

      BECAUSE EVERYONE NEEDS TO SEE A LITTLE MORE BLOOD AND DEATH. We don’t have enough in the movies, on tv sows and in the news, and in video games.

    • Talk about being a “tool” of the establishment! Reminds me of the phrase “a fool and his money is soon parted”. Yes, wave that flag for Urban Outfitters. March up and pay them money “for freedom!” Wear their uniform so you can say idiotically “i am free!”

    • I wish you’d made your comments in language that was easier to read. I’m not sure what you were getting at.

    • @George Goodman:
      How do you conflate that letter with extortion? You’d “proudly” wear that garment? There is much wrong with this world, and you, sir, seem to be an integral part of that disease.
      Please do us all a favor; become the loner it seems you’re destined to be, but keep to yourself, don’t bother us anymore with this kind of blather.

    • I fail to see any kind of “extortion”: in Laurel Krause’s request that UO use their decision to sell this rag as an opportunity to educate people (yourself included it seems) about the murders at Kent State.

  3. The Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970 is my generation’s Columbine, Newtown, and Virginia Tech shootings. How can anyone be so cruel as to make a blood-spattered shirt and sell it.
    Urban Outfitter’s CEO Richard Hayne should be ashamed of himself – has he no humanity? To want to profit off the murder of four kids -aged 19 and 20 years old?
    Hayne – you are not a human. You are evil

    • There can be no comparison of the killings at Kent State made in relation to Columbine and the other mass shootings you’ve mentioned here. This was a ruthless blood bath ordered by your very own government. Richard M. Nixon never served a day in prison for these murders, or as much as had his hand slapped for making the phone call on that horrific day.
      May he rot in hell.

      • So quick to try to blame the president at the time. Nixon had nothing to do with it and if you think he did you are a moron. It was the national guard who killed those people not the army. The national guard is given orders by the governor not the president. BTW Jim roads isn’t the only Ohio governor to do shady shit worth the national guard. It’s like an Ohio tradition.

  4. What’s wrong with this shirt? We should NOT be forgetting this happened, and any awareness to this brutal, tyrannical act of government should be welcomed. I will probably buy one now.

    • While I agree that this incident should not be erased from our memory banks, I have to object in which the fashion this ‘reminder’ is being presented. It’s not like Urban Outfitters cares what this does for the families; the impact it has at a micro or macro level; that its assumed good intention could be misinterpreted. This isn’t a case of poor marketing. This is a case of a perverse profitism at the expense of family, friends, and loved ones in the Kent state tragedy and that is a price far too high to ever be able to justify the mass production of a product like this.

      I think a much more effective way to eulogize those that were lost in this tragedy than using it as a marketing ploy. Anything that profits off the backs of people will never garner my approval.

    • It is not about forgetting but respecting that making a costume of this sort as a tribute is a disrespect to those who lost their lives. I would not purchase this shirt or wear it in rememberance as you think it suggests as I would not dress up as a Columbine student, Shandy hook etc. This is a calice move on their part and they should just admit that they didn’t think people would be upset about it.

    • You are clearly missing the point. Urban Outfitters isn’t being chastised for reminding people of what happened. They are being chastised for using the tragedy as the basis for a publicity stunt in order to sell more clothes and make more money. And then to add insult to injury, when called out, they hide behind the flimsy excuse that the shirt isn’t supposed to look like it has blood on it, but rather look “vintage.” It’s insulting on every level to those who lost their lives at Kent State.

    • You sir, are a fool.

    • I’ve got the same reaction Rynosaur. How much more crass is it than the 9/11 victims’ families who wanted to trademark the phrase “Let’s Roll?” Sure, it is a lot more in-your-face than a red ribbon or a blue or green or pink ribbon but our generation was a lot more in-your-face than many, and to me, this is a reminder; and it begs the question made famous in the song “Ohio,’ HOW MANY MORE???

    • If UO intent was to bring awareness to such tragedies, and/or they donated all their profits from the sale of this shirt(as there was only one for sale) to the Kent State Truth Tribunal, or other awareness fund, then I would be all for it. The problem comes that UO’s intent was make a profit off of other peoples misery, and that is what is offensive.

    • What’s wrong with it? The family of one of the victims has clearly expressed that they are highly offended and hurt by it! If you have any compassion, or even the slightest interest in not traumatizing the family any further, then no concocted argument can supersede that reality.

  5. This company was way out of line for doing this. The family’s of the four kids killed at Kent State had to deal with a lot after words including having people calling them telling them that their children deserved to be killed. And the crazy part about this the kids killed were not at the protest.

  6. I agree with the last poster. Those kids shed their blood to create the atmosphere to allow for change in this country. I don’t think that should be forgotten. I think we live in times again where our government creates wars in far off places. I think this is a particularly bad time to forget about the bloody sweatshirts of Kent State.

  7. Urban Outfitters is one of the worst conglomerates geared towards our youth. First they make our children and young adults feel that they must be bone thin in order to be classified as beautiful and now they turn to another tragedy to profit of off. You and all the other stores in your category are sickening!

  8. The fact the suburban outfitters marketing team thought it was a good idea to market such a shock and awe product really does not surprise me. We as a culture have gotten to the point were we don’t distinguish between good and bad taste. All that has to happen is to see a name or brand over and over agin, I think people that work in advertising see this work on a less desisting scale work very well (this is a Ploy for free advertising) makes it easy to cross a line, there are a ton of face book posts condemning it, aka free advertising! Gap did the same stuff a few months back with the “manafest destiny” sweat shirt, but it was cloaked it that you were made to think it was a mistake( I don’t belive it was) it was a genius marketing skeam, all be it a bad look, but the way our very new overly saturated human conciousnes works, sales still go up and cost of advertising goes down, all “we” have to do is see the name over and over agin. If we identify how fucked up it was we wouldn’t buy there products, but we do(fact!) that is why this is a successful campaign. This company steals flat out designs from etsy, jacking independent artist that don’t have the money to beat these jerks in court. They donate money to bigoted cases that are the compleat opisit of there customer base beliefs, paid for by the same customer base, Google the leaked internal documents from the CEO of this company, she broke down the demographics of her customers like they were mindless cattle, and we are if we play in to this simple game, this very article is a urban outfitters advertisement, plan and simple. The only way to combat this bull shit is to not speak on it. I feel deeply for this young lady loss and the salt that is rubbed in the never healing wound. But this is in a very realistic in effect a marketing tool for the enamy…

  9. There was only one shirt. Said to be purchased at a garage sale, and faded by the sun, it was put up for sale as a one-off item. That’s what UO said. Whether true our not, we will undoubtedly never see this shirt again. They’ve apologized, and that means people should get on with their lives, lest they be accused of harping like Jackson, Sharpton and others often are. Are people no longer allowed to make mistakes? Apparently not.

    • Hayne did NOT apologize. He denied that he had intended to offend anyone, and pathetically, he denied having seen any connection between the garment and the tragic events at Kent State. This child-like confabulation just adds insult to injury. I agree that if there had been a sincere apology indicating that he learned something from this and that he cares and feels responsible, that most people would drop the matter and move on. Of course mistakes are allowed.

  10. There is nothing wrong with this shirt. It serves as a reminder to all of a particular atrocity perpetuated by the US government.

    The blood splattered on the shirt is graphic, … and graphic it should be. The US government murdering four students was a horrific event in this country’s history and it should not be ‘glossed over,’ ‘prettied up,’ or made to seem any less horrific than it was.

    Nor is there anything ‘insensitive’ about remembering this this event, or any other graphically horrific event, in this manner. Any graphically horrific event remembered with due tribute will necessarily be disturbing. If the article stimulating the memory (like this shirt) is not disturbing, then something is missing and the dead are not honored.

  11. If the shirt was an original piece of art, I agree that it would stir up the appropriate and — for many — long-forgotten outrage due this historically awful event. But as a mass-produced, profit-generating item, the shirt — and its marketer — are deplorable, demonstrating cheap opportunism at its absolute worst. I’m disgusted by Urban Outfitters, my daughter’s favorite store. I’m forwarding this story to her and telling her how exploitive I find it. She will no doubt agree and not feel very good about shopping there. I’m going to make sure of that.

    • The shirt was not mass produced by urban outfitters. It was a vintage item and was removed from the website immediately.

  12. This tasteless shirt might have proven it’s intent for existing. Perhaps to create a dialogue about Kent State. This shirt and concept are poorly executed and I’m shocked that it was manufactured, but makes me ask how many were actually made? It looks like non. How much did UO profit? Well, it’s not for sale– but i guess people who go to the sight might find something they like. So some profit but not directly. Unfortunately, the CEO sounds clueless and the company lacks some oversight. I would not go so far as to call Hayne evil, but careless and perhaps absent minded. The shirt as a concept drums up the sad day of the shootings, just like every other school shooting tragedy. And perhaps, this shirt can symbolize how violence has been a major problem throughout our culture and history. I just wish that they never actually profit from this shirt. And if they did, return the profit somehow, and give this story a different ending.

  13. Come on Urban Outfitters ,grow up and do the right thing

  14. Jeff Miller, one of the four students killed that day at Kent State, graduated from my high school in NY. When I first saw these sweatshirts, my mind raced back to his family, to our town, to the gatherings in living rooms all over Plainview, NY that followed, as our little community tried to make sense of this terrible moment in history (one of many terrible moments)… As a seventh grader, it was my first awareness of political action as we collectively walked out of schools in protest.

    Now, 44 years later, it is incomprehensible to me that a company could do this, in the pursuit of sales and business. As we have ethics in social work, medicine, etc., I know there must be ethics in business practices. And, we must bring into consciousness our past so as to learn from history and grow. May this awful decision contribute to this consciousness in the corporate world… And, to all of us. This is a calling to slow down, reflect, ask questions, and to strive to do no harm. It is a calling to make decisions thoughtfully, and to act responsibly. It is a calling to do what is right.

  15. You should be upset with the National Guard.

  16. I initially was shocked at the site of these shirts, but after some thought, I think that if these shIrts can invoke conversation about what happened at Kent St then wouldnt this be a good thing??
    To many times horrific event after horrific events, occur, at the hands of the government, and after some time these events end up being either buried and forgotten or rewritten,
    While I can understand Allison sisters response, and her revulsion to the thought if someone profiting from her sisters death, I don’t think the bigger picture is being thought of.
    Look at what just transpired in Ferguson, and actually all over the country. Do you think these events at the hands of the state should just fade into memory???
    Kent state happened for the sole purpose to stop the massive social movement, also know as Anti War protesters , to not invoke some discussion with our youth about what our history is, and what the state is capable of would be as unsavory as what some people are calling these shirts.

  17. Typical liberals, making the military into murderers. Maybe before you go accusing the National Guard of being the cause of people “brutally murdered by the national guard”, you should read up on your history.
    According to http://dept.kent.edu/sociology/lewis/lewihen.htm, the national Guardsmen fired inself- defense. Read the whole article (a mind is like a parachute, it doesn’t work if it is closed.) In 1975, “a jury voted 9-3 that none of the Guardsmen were legally responsible for the shootings” (mainly because they were huddled against a football field fence and people were THROWING ROCKS AT THEM. Self defense!
    You should thank our military for preserving our freedom, not accuse them of murder, when all they did was try to defend thmeselves (most of the shots were fired in the air or on the ground!)
    Shame on you people!

    • You’re reading the wrong article. I went to Kent. There is and was no football field fence there. Right wing revisionist articles will get you poppycock every time. That and Bill O’Relly.

    • Typical reactionary.

      Yelling ‘boo!’ at anything in a uniform is justification for death in a hail of gunfire according to you murderous savages.

  18. This complaint by the sister of one of the students murdered at Kent State is outrageous and ridiculously self-righteous! I tend to agree with commenter Rynosaur. This Urban Outfitters company chose to make a statement that would help to keep alive the memory of Allison Krause and the other martyrs, and the brutal handling of a peaceful protest, in a new generation. Congratulations to them!! If Krause’s sister chooses to be offended by this, too bad. She’s being silly. Anyway, the First Amendment and the desire to keep a political memory alive trumps her goofy emotions.

  19. Is this calling for a boycott *unless* the offender makes a generous donation to the cause? Because it does sound a little like extortion if so.

  20. The Urban Outfitter’s CEO said he was giving “facts.” His quotes. Got that right!

  21. Some things are meant to be humorous. The murder of 4 unarmed students by the government is not one of them. Simple really. Unless you are a profit mongering, capitalistic pig.

  22. Hmm.. the letter criticizes UO for trying to make money from a horrible situation, and then ends with a “demand” for a donation from UO. A bit hypocritical.

  23. Teenagers gunned down by the government is FASCIST EVIL, selling a copy of her bloody shirt of one of them is, FASCIST , corporate,evil for profit.

  24. I was in high school at the time of the Kent State shootings. Your sisters name, and thoughts of her have stayed with me all of my life.
    I was involved ( as well as my family) in the peace movement.
    I am happy to sign this petition.
    You beautiful sister and the other innocents at Kent State, deserve more than this marketing campaign. It is self serving, and does nothing to educate other generations, or honor those whose lives were taken, while peacefully protetesting
    war.

  25. Ugh, yet ANOTHER shining example of American severe over-reaction over nothing…*sigh* If only the sweater hadn’t sold out so fast!

  26. This is an American tragedy that you sought to profit from! This is beyond insensitive, it is clearly abusive of all the families involved that were murdered and wounded on the Kent State campus that day. How dare you not address this situation in a respectful and serious manner! We await your best efforts.

  27. this is disgusting

  28. That guy “thomas” who said “Nixon had nothing to do with it” and “if you believe that your an idiot” is wrong. Nixon delivered a speech on April 30, announcing an expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia. This caused campuses to erupt all over the nation and at Kent State the tension snapped. There was 67 live rounds fired that day striking several other students as well and leaving one student paralyzed. Whoever designed the shirt obviously knew the history by the tattered “vintage” look and red spatter effect across it. That person should be fired for such a tasteless, heartless prank. Unfortunately, there would be many people who would buy the thing even knowing the history..sad statement. However as they say, there is no place for morals in capitalism. Only in America…

    • Obama expanding the Iraq war into Syria is every bit as illegal as Nixon expanding the Vietnam war into Cambodia.

  29. As far as I can tell, this shirt has nothing to do with the Kent State Shootings, it’s just a used red shirt with spots. This isn’t a mass market item. It’s a single shirt from a whole bunch of used faded clothing. You’ve turned it into a Rorschach test. The fact that you see something in it doesn’t mean the something is actually there.

    • For anyone who live through that era, Kent State immediately brings to mind the tragic shootings, and Hayne lived through that era. All of life is a Rorschach test, but to function as a society we agree to assign meaning to some things and events, such as killings, because they have a significant impact. Even if the shirt didn’t happen to appear to be blood stained, there would be a connection to 1970 for many people.

  30. Restorative Justice. For all of you who find it appalling that Laurel Krause is asking UO to make a donation… the term for that is restorative justice. Look it up. It humanely allows the perpetrator to make amends, to see the contradiction of their own life. Get a grip people, she is asking appropriately. In a healthy way. Bravo.

  31. “it seemed to relegate the memory of the Kent State University protestors who were brutally murdered by the national guard into a frame of hipster irony”. I see nothing wrong there but the verb to relegate. Yes a corporation is making money off a tragedy, but they certainly wouldn’t be the first and not of as much profit as many (the oil industry…Iraqi etc..) And stupid little urban outfitter somehow made a ‘bigger’ of a social faux pas in achieving profit, than did numerous wars and death in the name of oil profit. I mean bigger in that it has stopped the sale of this product. Popular belief and a call for morality have called for the halt of it’s production. Popular belief can have this effect on all products.
    This is a sign of a need for cultural change. Urban outfitters, as all coropration, have one goal which is to make money. In order to achieve that goal, they would product any product they thought ‘consumers’ would buy. And apparently a “hipster irony” to the topic of civil descent is in demand.

    • I don’t think “hipster irony” is what UO had in mind. I do think it was an incredibly insensitive attempt to profit off the tragedy. I also think there explanation of the design of the shirt is a load of b.s. They knew exactly what they were doing when they designed that shirt and when there was a backlash about it, instead of coming out and saying what they really intended by the design, they lied and said they had no intention of offending anyone. Liars…they’ll never get one dime of my money…

  32. Just say it’s a shirt for Zombie lovers…

  33. #‎UrbanOutfitters‬ Intentionally Inflicting Injuries Again ~ http://bit.ly/1FvzMZN

    MUST the UO marketed-to-base bring a class action lawsuit against ‪#‎UO‬ for creating and mass promoting products that intend to upset, traumatize, harm customers? … And then MUST we again witness ‪#‎RichardHaynes‬ lamely apologize, pretending no offense?

    LAST TIME AROUND Urban Outfitters said the real problem with the Urban Outfitters ‪#‎KentStateSweatshirt‬ was our “NEGATIVE PERCEPTION” … for reacting as humane beings with ‪#‎KentState‬ ‪#‎ptsd‬. READ our ‪#‎KSTT‬ response heart emoticon http://bit.ly/1udRfPY
    Kent State Truth Tribunal