Topman withdraws ‘karma’ T-shirt after Hillsborough complaints

Retailer says shirt was a reference to a Bob Marley song but campaigners saw a different interpretation

Topman hillsborough
(Image credit: Topman)

The clothing retailer Topman has faced sustained criticism over the release of a red shirt featuring a rose and the number 96 - the number of people who died in the Hillsborough disaster.

The top had the words “Karma” down one sleeve and a large “96” on the back along with the rose and the words underneath, “What goes around comes back around”.

The item is no longer available on Topman’s website.

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“It has not been suggested that the T-shirt bore any deliberate reference to the Hillsborough tragedy”, says The Times and Topman has now apologised “unreservedly” for the inadvertent reference, explaining that the motifs are based on the Bob Marley song What Goes Around Comes Around, which was re-released in 1996.

The song’s lyrics include the line: “It’s called karma, baby, and it goes around / What goes around comes around.”

Louise Brookes, whose brother Andrew died in the 1989 disaster, “led calls for the garment’s withdrawal,” reports the i newspaper.

“I think there are too many coincidences,” she told BBC Two’s Victoria Derbyshire programme. “It is in red – why isn’t it not in another colour? But it is the rose for me because the rose is very significant to Hillsborough. Why didn’t they put 1996 on the shirt, why 96?”

Brookes said the references to karma were the most hurtful.

“Us families and survivors, all we have heard for 29 years is Hillsborough is God’s way of punishing the Liverpool fans for Heysel,” she said in reference to the deaths of 39 people, mainly Juventus fans, who died in 1985 when a wall collapsed at the Heysel stadium in Brussels before the start of a matche between Juventus and Liverpool.

She added: “That’s what hurts so much. And that’s why I believe this T-shirt is definitely connected and referenced to Hillsborough.”

The retailer said: “Topman apologises unreservedly for any offence caused by this T-shirt. The design was inspired by a Bob Marley track with the number referring to the year of re-release. The garment has been removed from sale online and in stores.”

However, many fans have nonetheless criticised its release. One fan account on Twitter said it was “incredibly short-sighted and insensitive”, while another added:”I won’t be shopping in Topshop again. Absolute disgraceful.”

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