MADHU PATEL

Outdoor and sporting goods company REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.), headquartered near Seattle, has apologized and removed a yoga mat towel carrying reimagined image of Hindu deity Lord Ganesh after a strong protest lodged by members of the Indian community

Courtney Gearhart of REI Brand Stewardship & Impact, in an email to Rajan Zed, who spearheaded the protest, said: “Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. This was a miss on our part, and we apologize for the oversight. We removed this item immediately from REI.com and informed our teams of the concern. We will work closely with Manduka and our other partners to prevent this type of oversight from happening in the future.”

Zed, President of Universal Society of Hinduism, thanked REI for understanding the concerns of the Hindu community which thought the image of Lord Ganesh on such a product was highly insensitive.

He said Hinduism is the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken frivolously.

Lord Ganesh is worshipped as god of wisdom and remover of obstacles and is invoked before the beginning of any major undertaking. There are about three million Hindus in USA.

This objectionable “yogitoes Yoga Mat Towel Enlightened” was selling on the REI website for $46.73 and was described as “an absorbent, hygienic towel that layers on top of your yoga mat to prevent slipping”.

REI, founded in 1938, claims to be the “nation’s largest consumer cooperative” with over 17 million members, 154 stores and online presence, and “responsible business practices”.

Products include gear and apparel for outdoor pursuits; including hiking, cycling, fitness, camping, snow sports, traveling, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, and bird watching among others.

Eric Artz is Interim President and CEO of REI, while Steven Hooper is Chair of its Board of Directors.