Walmart pulls T-shirts with 'vile' product descriptions about female hockey fans
Everyone involved apologizes, including a former NHL player
Walmart Canada has pulled a line of women's T-shirts from its website after fielding complaints that their accompanying product descriptions were offensive and sexist.
The descriptions included tales of female groupies who serve as sex objects for hockey players and enjoy a golden shower.
A third-party dealer sold the T-shirts on Walmart's site for close to a year before the company yanked them this week and apologized, after several women complained on Facebook.
The tees and their descriptive text that showed up on Walmart's site were created in 2010 by Arizona sports apparel company Sauce Hockey. It's under new ownership, but former Arizona Coyotes hockey player Paul Bissonnette, a Canadian, held a stake in the company when the line was launched.
One description for a T-shirt called Road Bunny Women's Burnout indicated it was designed for the woman who's "more interested in the visiting team coming to town, because there's fresh faces and more hockey players to creep on."
Text for a jersey titled Sauce Intern Women's Crew implied it was inspired by the "super fan girl" who volunteers for the hockey crew just to get close to the players. "By the end of the season she's 'dated' half the team."
A Stage 5 Clinger Tee included a tale of a hockey player's clingy one-night stand. "Bad mistake taking this girl home," it said. "Give her a golden shower maybe?" it suggested to get rid of her. "Nope, she loved it."
"Most of the descriptions are quite degrading to women," said Laura Schellenberg from Surrey, B.C., who complained to Walmart on Sunday after discovering the shirts on the company's site.
"It's pretty crude stuff," she said. "I'm just surprised that this kind of language or what they're alluding to is acceptable."
Turns out, no one finds the descriptions acceptable, including former NHLer Bissonnette.
"I realize that some of the company's references used [with] T-shirts in 2010 were offensive to women and I sincerely apologize for that," he said in a statement. "I was young and immature but I've moved on and I in no way support those references now."
Bissonnette parted ways with Sauce Hockey three years ago.
Walmart is also expressing regret.
"We sincerely apologize for any unintended offence this has caused our customers," said Walmart Canada spokesperson Anika Malik in an email. "The descriptions accompanying these tees do not represent Walmart's values and have no place on our site."
The shirts were sold on the site by third-party retailer IceJerseys. Malik said Walmart has "checks and balances" for dealers using its site but, following this incident, it's reviewing that process.
Montreal-based IceJerseys expressed surprise after learning the Sauce Hockey T-shirts were accompanied by inappropriate descriptions.
"Golden shower? Like, I can't believe that. I'm honestly speechless," said Jared Shapransky, the company's vice-president of marketing.
Shapransky said Sauce Hockey supplied the product descriptions and IceJerseys didn't read them before posting the items on Walmart's site.
"It's an automated process," he said, "which explains how this vile copy got past us."
He said the company has pulled the shirts from websites where it sold the product including Amazon's Canadian site, and is committed to vetting all future product descriptions before posting them.
"I'm sorry if anyone was offended by this," said Shapransky. "It's just an unfortunate oversight that we'll be rectifying immediately."
The current owners of Sauce Hockey also expressed surprise and dismay over the descriptions.
"It's offensive and sexist. There's no question," said Daryl Jones, one of the company's investors.
He said he and a group of fellow investors took over the company three years ago, and they had no knowledge of the product descriptions.
"I would never have approved this," said Jones.
He said the company will ensure the descriptions disappear from all websites, and Sauce Hockey will offer to buy back and destroy any associated apparel from retailers.
The company says it has reached out to Amazon, which still has some of the T-shirts, along with the product descriptions on its U.S. site via a different third-party dealer. Amazon told CBC News it was investigating the matter.
Sauce Hockey has also posted an apology to the group of women on Facebook complaining about the descriptions.
"There is no place in hockey for the type of sexist culture that is implied by these T-shirt descriptions," wrote Jones.