Black Experience

Ralph Lauren Apologizes, Recalls Trousers Bearing Black Fraternity’s Symbols

The Ralph Lauren Corp. has removed a line of trousers from its sale racks and apologized to a Black fraternity for using the brotherhood’s symbols on the garments without its consent.

An advertisement for the pants on Ralph Lauren’s French website featured the Greek letters for the D.C.-based Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc., founded in 1914 at Howard University. The pants retailed for about $334 U.S. dollars and featured the fraternity’s symbols on the back left pant leg.

Use of the fraternity’s lettering was first reported by website Watch the Yard and prompted a petition this month demanding that the company “do the right thing and recall, destroy and publicly apologize for trying to capitalize off of Black culture.”

“We don’t know who thought this was a good idea, but they need to fix it quick,” the petition states, noting that Phi Beta Sigma is a professional organization that is not for sale.

Andrea Hence Evans, a legal representative for the fraternity, said her firm was investigating, and that the organization was “shocked and appalled” that Ralph Lauren would violate the fraternity’s trademarks without consent.

A Ralph Lauren spokeswoman said in a statement that the use of the symbols on the pants was “an oversight” for which the company deeply apologized and that it had taken immediate action to stop selling them.

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