Lululemon Athletica Inc. apologized to sports fans in Buffalo, New York, after it drew ire for the phrase "Wide Right / No Goal" spelled out in tile on the floor of a local store, a reference to painful losses that the city suffered in football and hockey.
"We want the Buffalo community to know that we have heard them and we are sorry," Paul Zaengle, senior vice president of U.S. retail, said in an e-mailed statement. "We get that this didn't land well, and we want to make it right. We have covered up the mosaic and are having it removed."
"Wide Right" alludes to kicker Scott Norwood's missed field goal attempt that ended the Buffalo Bills' hopes for a Super Bowl win against the New York Giants in 1991. "No Goal," meanwhile, evokes the Buffalo Sabres' 1999 Stanley Cup Final loss to the Dallas Stars on a questionable goal.
The incident marks the latest misstep for Lululemon, a gaffe-prone maker of yoga wear and other athletic clothing. In an interview on Bloomberg Television last November, Dennis Wilson, Lululemon's founder and former chairman, said Lululemon's pants "don't work for some women's bodies." He apologized a week later and announced his resignation as chairman the next month.
The company also had to recall a line of pants that became see-through when customers bent over. And in July, some dermatologists denounced the retailer over shopping bags that advised "sunscreen absorbed into the skin might be worse for you than sunshine."
Though the Buffalo sports reference had been displayed since the store opened in May, controversy didn't spread until this week when a post on social media sparked a backlash. Insulted Buffalo fans took to Twitter to call for a boycott of the store.
"I don't care what year it is, the Lululemon 'wide right' statement in Buffalo was bad taste," a Twitter user named Michelle wrote.
In one tweet to a ruffled customer, Lululemon explained the mosaic was meant to celebrate the loyalty of Buffalo fans. "We know emotions run deep and these events are part of our history and built Buffalo's strength and character," the company said.
Buffalo fans, who suffered four consecutive Super Bowl losses in the 1990s, take their sports seriously. Bills fans previously organized a boycott of rocker Jon Bon Jovi over his involvement with a group of investors trying to buy the team, allegedly with the intention of moving it to Toronto.