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"Please Talk to Us"


Published October 23, 2008 at 11:31 p.m.

Just before they repaired to Red Rocks Park for cookies and cider, the protesters who lined Industrial Parkway, in front of Burton Snowboards, turned toward the company's headquarters and chanted, "Please talk to us, please talk to us."

No dice.

Not that the 100 or so people who turned up for this morning's rally and march, organized by critics of the company's Love and Primo board lines, were left talking to themselves.

At least a half dozen reporters and television crews were on hand to record the chants, speeches and anti-Burton posters  — "Love & Primo are Mountain Pollution", "This is Disrespect not Innovation" — as critics of the boards once again tried to engage a company that has all but ignored them.

As the protesters gathered at Red Rocks for the short swing around the corner to Burton, organizer Lezlee Sprenger took up a bullhorn and said the company's 238-word written response to the controversy, issued last night, was "sadly predictable."

"Burton needs women more than women need Burton," Sprenger said. "That's why we're calling for a mainstream boycott of Burton. The only language Burton understands is money."

In the company's statement, Burton CEO Laurent Potdevin said the company had no intention of pulling the Love and Primo lines:

Burton is a global company, and these boards have been embraced and are a success around the world. We are not breaking any laws by creating these boards, and it is our sincere belief that these graphics do not condone or encourage violence towards women in any way.

As she waited for the march to begin, Mira Fakirananda, the office manager at UVM's Women's Center, said the Love board, illustrated with images from vintage Playboy centerfolds, could encourage violence toward women. When asked if the public outcry of the past few weeks might be giving the Love and Primo lines more publicity than they might have received otherwise, Fakirananda conceded that "a certain crowd" might be more inclined to purchase the boards now.

"It's still more important to get the message out there," she said.

 Outside Burton's offices, a handful of speakers denounced the company for both continuing to sell the lines and for refusing to meet with critics. Mark Redmond, director of Spectrum Youth and Family Services, called the Primo line, which features cartoon images of self-mutilation, "beyond offensive."

After ending Spectrum's affiliation with Burton's Chill program, which provides snowboarding gear and lessons to underserved children, Redman said he received numerous offers of free boards and lift passes.

"Spectrum kids will be out on the slopes this winter after all," said Redmond, who congratulated the Howard Center for also discontinuing its participation in the Chill program.

Suzanne DuBrosse, who lectures on media literacy, attacked Burton's defense of the boards' graphics as "artwork."

"Who finds self-mutilation inspiring? What woman finds pornography inspiring?"

"It's a shame that Burton is getting free publicity with this," DuBrosse continued. "But we hope the negative publicity outweighs any potential gain."

Find more Blurt Burton coverage: "Burton's Offensive New Boards," "Burton Controversy Update and Op-Ed."