Some Irish eyes are glaring, not smiling, at WalMart for selling a St. Patrick’s Day T-shirt they feel is derogatory and offensive.
“St. Paddy’s Newfie Beer Removal Service — pints, pitchers, kegs” is printed in white lettering on the green T-shirt along with an image of a beer stein. The shirts bear tags from a company called Rock Gear.
Great Big Sea band member and local restauranteur Bob Hallett noticed the shirts at the Mount Pearl WalMart a little over a week ago, and posted a photo on Twitter with the caption, “Really, WalMart? We’ve got to get past this shit.”
“While lots of Newfoundlanders are comfortable with the term Newfie, there are just as many who are not, and I count myself in that number,” Hallett told The Telegram. “Like so many other racial slurs, context is everything — if the group in question wishes to use it themselves, that is one thing. For a worldwide corporation to put it on T-shirt is quite another."
While some Twitter users disagreed and claimed those with a problem with the shirts were being oversensitive and too politically correct, the majority of responses were from people who shared Hallett’s point of view and called the shirt derogatory.
“This is extremely offensive and not acceptable,” tweeted Joanie Perry Sears, tagging WalMart Canada directly.
WalMart replied: “We have checked with our stores and can confirm we are not selling this shirt.”
Three days later, piles of the shirts were still available at at least two St. John’s WalMart locations. In an email, a WalMart Canada spokesman indicated Monday the organization would provide a statement in response to The Telegram’s inquiries about the shirt, however no statement was given as of deadline.
The Telegram could find no information on Rock Gear t-shirts.
“WalMart is famously organized and detail oriented — someone saw that shirt and decided it was OK. It isn’t,” Hallett said.
“I have spent my career singing, writing and talking about the culture of Newfoundland, and while celebration is a big part of that culture, ‘Newfie Beer Removal’ is an idiotic way to describe it.”
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