Burton Snowboards has a reputation for pushing the boundaries, but the Burlington company may have gone over the edge with two new product lines that have outraged women's groups and anti-violence advocates.
One, called "Love," features Playboy models in various stages of undress; the other, dubbed "Primo," features graphic illustrations of hands being mutilated by scissors, a box razor and a pit bull. The company is selling "Primo" with the tag line, "Mutilate the mountain, then terrorize the streets."
An email and phone campaign to register consumer disgust with the new products made its way to Seven Days today. Among the organizations that plan to contact Burton (or already have) are the Girl Scout Council of Vermont, the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, and S.A.F.E Alternatives, a national group that offers counseling and treatment advice to people who "self-injure."
In an email to the company, one Colchester resident asked Burton, as "a leading producer of youth culture," to "rethink" the new lines. "Is this what you want as 'cool' in our world? And why aren't there nude males on any of the boards??"
An email response from Burton explained that the Playboy "limited edition" boards were created at the request of two professional snowboarders. "Both Burton and Playboy were founded on principles of individual freedom," the response stated, "and the collaboration has resulted in boards that reflect this attitude."
The company's response also offered the opinion that the "Love" boards, which will be "fully wrapped with an 18+ age disclaimer," are destined to become collector's items.
While the Playboy line is misogynist and distasteful, the "Primo" boards are violent and outright disturbing. Stephanie Kaza, of the UVM President's Commission on the Status of Women, called the bloody images "unconscionable" and pledged to help organize pressure on Burton.
We called Burton for comment, but the company has yet to respond. We'll let you know what they have to say.
UPDATE: Editor's Note: Opponents of the boards have started a Facebook group.
UPDATE: I just got off the phone with Shana Frahm, Burton's global PR director. Frahm forwarded two brief corporate statements on the "Love" and "Primo" lines and told me the company would have nothing else to say about the matter for now. Burton executives, she said, "were not available for comment." I asked Frahm whether the company had received many complaints about the new product lines, but she declined to speak on the record.
Here are statements. I included hyperlinks to some recent press about the artists behind the new boards.
Burton/Playboy Love Collection
The Burton Playboy limited edition snowboards were created at the request of two of Burton’s professional snowboarders Mikkel Bang and Keegan Valaika. Both Burton and Playboy were founded on principles of individual freedom, and the collaboration has resulted in boards that reflect this attitude. The imagery on the boards is tastefully done, and we believe that they will be collector's items. The 1000 snowboards will be fully wrapped with an 18+ age disclaimer to purchase.
Burton has a long history of working with artists on snowboard graphics. When collaborating with an artist, Burton does not restrict the artist’s freedom of expression. The Primo graphic was created by world-renowned skate artist Todd Bratrud, who has worked on projects for such companies as Vans, Volcom and Flip Skateboards. Burton is proud to collaborate with artists like Todd.