JCPenney outfit display sparks controversy; retailer takes action

JCPenney outfit display sparks controversy; retailer takes action

A major retail store shows an outfit display that sparked controversy to a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.

I spoke with the woman who told me, she took great offense after seeing this display two days ago, saying that it demeans the Native American community.

At first glance, these t-shirts saying "Tribe Leader" at Sioux City's JCPenney's may appear like any other display at the mall; outfits up for sale.

But in its plain sight, Michelle LaMere and her 13-year-old daughter saw a different kind of message while shopping last Friday, a message that offended her.

"Just on either side of the display there was one that had 'wine wine wine,' the other had shirts that had 'beer beer beer," said LaMere.

LaMere, a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, said the display associates Native Americans with alcoholism, a long-time stigma which she is trying to break.

So, she took to social media and posted the display on Facebook where her followers responded.

"After seeing how upset people some people were about the picture, I decided to go back to see what could be done about it," said LaMere, who didn't just go back for another picture.

This time she reached out to the store and caught it all on camera. The manager appears to be unaware of the display and the impact it had on LaMere.

"When the manager showed up, I went live because I wanted the people upset by the display, that something was being done," said LaMere.

And, something was done. The video shows the manager apologizing.

"So yeah, w e can definitely get rid of these. I'm sorry that's offensive, I'm glad you cleared that up for me. I'm so sorry about that, no problem. I'm sorry about that. We don't want to be offensive to anyone, that's not what we're about."

The video spread on Facebook, already raking in more than 70,000 views.

"I would like people to be more , I guess sensitive, educated about what we face. So that maybe we could learn to live a little bit more peaceably," said LaMere.

LaMere said she really appreciated the store manager's apology, and that all she wants his clarity for the community. Because even a simple display like this, could easily be misinterpreted.

J. C. Penney Corporate Office has sent a statement saying:

We appreciate the customer making us aware of the merchandise placement within our Sioux City store. While there was never any intention to associate these products, our team immediately took action and corrected the presentation upon learning of this unfortunate merchandise arrangement. We want to express our sincere apologies, as JCPenney prides itself as being a diverse and inclusive organization, treating all customers as we would like to be treated – with dignity and respect.

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