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Clothing catalog ‘pornographic,’ Joe Gibbs says, vowing boycott

WASHINGTON (BP)–Joe Gibbs, NASCAR team owner and Hall of Fame former coach of the Washington Redskins, has added his voice to family groups protesting clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch’s use of sexual imagery in its marketing to young people, CNSNews.com reported Oct. 12.

“I am appalled at your efforts to market clothing by using sexually suggestive photographs and an obvious promotion of gratuitous sexual behavior and promiscuity,” Gibbs said in a letter to A&F chairman Michael Jeffries.

“I think most Americans would consider these images to be pornographic in nature,” he said.

The NASCAR Winston Cup team owner blasted the A&F management for endorsing the marketing program. “The idea that each of you approved a campaign that distributes these sexually suggestive images to make a profit is, in my opinion, stooping as low as you can go,” Gibbs said.

He sent copies of his letter to political, religious and business leaders, including President Bush and Sen. Orrin Hatch, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In his letter, Gibbs vowed to become involved on a grassroots level to boycott A&F products. He also said he would enlist the support of the 500,000-member Fellowship of Christian Athletes and of Young Life, an organization of more than 1 million young people and their adult sponsors, “to get the message out about your disgusting marketing.”

“I can promise you — I will devote my full efforts to spread the word about this [advertising] campaign. My hope is your business will indeed suffer as a result,” Gibbs said.

The NFL Hall of Famer joins a growing number of groups calling on the New Albany, Ohio-based clothing giant to change its advertising. The Culture and Family Institute, an affiliate of Concerned Women for America, encouraged its membership to protest the A&F “Back to School Quarterly,” set at the fictitious A&F University.

“This issue depicts college life as simply one long orgy, with plenty of nudity, both male and female, and provocative poses, many in bed,” a July CFI report said.

Hampton Carney, a spokesman for A&F, denied the catalog is pornographic.

“It chronicles the college experience,” he said. “It’s very irreverent; it’s tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. It’s beautiful, healthy, sexy images, geared for college students.”

The catalog is distributed by subscription or store sales only to persons 18 years of age and older, and all of the models in the ads are over 18, Carney said. He called Gibbs’ characterization of the catalog as pornographic “absurd.”

The photography, by renowned fashion photographer Bruce Weber, catered to sophisticated college students who make up the largest percentage of A&F customer base, Carney said.

The catalog is also purchased for its interviews with celebrities, cultural reviews, excerpts from short stories and other material suitable for that age group, he said.

Carney said it is too early to determine what factors were influencing sales or whether the boycotts were having an effect.

Bill Johnson, president of the American Decency Association, one of several family groups conducting petition drives against the retailer, said the efforts of Gibbs and others against the company were having an effect on sales as the holiday season approaches.

A&F sales are down, despite the fact that the company has opened more stores nationwide, Johnson said.

The A&F catalog is primarily promoting a promiscuous lifestyle, including homosexual sex, he said.

“They’re using sex to sell, and it’s harming our kids,” Johnson said. “Abercrombie & Fitch targets teens at the most vulnerable point in their lives utilizing images of young bodies, mostly unclothed, some partially nude, some totally nude, many in sexualized poses,” he says in a petition featured at www.americandecency.org.

Illinois Lt. Gov. Corinne Wood also is urging consumers to boycott A&F and to sign an online petition to protest the firm’s “soft core pornographic” catalog.
Morahan is a senior staff writer with CNSNews.com. Used by permission.

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  • Lawrence Morahan