Local company Thanks a Million faces criticism over racially offensive photo of its product

SAN DIEGO - A local company is facing criticism in the wake of a picture pairing an African-American boy's face with a monkey shirt.

"I'm offended and I am heartbroken. I hope it never happens again," said Lei-Chala Wilson, President of the San Diego chapter of the NAACP. "It sends a message that stereotypes are true."

The photo was tweeted Wednesday -- possibly from a shopper -- from inside an unknown store. The picture shows an African-American baby's face hanger with the monkey T-shirt. Behind it are other shirts that appeared to have the same pairing.

The photo has sparked plenty of anger online. Media outlets around the country wrote stories about the photo and the creators of the face hangars and shirts -- all from a clothing line owned by San Diego-based Thanks a Million.

Company officials declined an interview but issued a statement, saying the pairing "was not authorized, condoned or tolerated by our company … we sincerely regretted this occurrence ..."

A spokesperson told 10News the face hangers are distributed separately from the wide selection of cartoon character shirts, which are paired up by the individual store.

The company says it's still trying to track down where this photo was taken and in which store.

Meanwhile, Wilson said the company's regret is not enough.

"I would like an apology," said Wilson.

She said she doesn't believe the pairing was accidental, adding, "The stereotype is pervasive. This was purposeful. It's offensive, and whoever did it, did it for that reason."

Wilson is also calling for company-wide training to prevent a repeat.

Thanks a Million says they've already begun implementing training that will span the thousands of stores that carry their products.

The company also says they believe the store in which the photo was snapped was in Los Angeles, but they haven't confirmed which store.

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