That’s the message Buffalo sports fans had for the high-end yoga accessory retailer for putting a “wide right” and “no goal” tile floor mosaic at its Walden Galleria store.
In response, the store quickly covered the mosaic and is in the process of designing a new one.
As all Buffalonians know, “wide right” refers to Scott Norwood’s missed 47-yard field goal attempt that sealed the Buffalo Bills’ first Super Bowl loss. “No goal” refers to the Brett Hull’s foot-in-the-crease game-winning goal for the Dallas Stars in triple overtime of Game Six in the 1999 Stanley Cup Final, which deprived the Buffalo Sabres of a chance to win the Cup.
Both sear the hearts of Western New York sports fans, who lit up social media with criticism for the store, interpreting the mosaic as a jab by outsiders at the city’s history of sports failures.
On the contrary, the store said, the mosaic was meant to show its solidarity with Western New Yorkers; to demonstrate its awareness of the region’s history and culture.
“Our intention was never to mock Buffalo. It was meant as a rally cry,” said Pamela Palmieri, the store manager.
In fact, Lululemon’s more than two years of market research into Western New York gave them the impression that it would be a good idea.
In conversations with locals, it said, the phrases “no goal” and “wide right” kept popping up as statements of defiance in the face of adversity, the company said.
But many fans weren’t buying it. They thought the effort was tone deaf – and let the company know. In response, the store quickly threw a floor mat over the mosaic Wednesday afternoon and came up with the plan to address the offending artwork permanently.
Workers also posted a sign at the store’s entrance.
“We hear you Buffalo,” it read. “We are Buffalo. We are proud athletes, students, teachers, parents, home owners, business owners, fans!”
Lululemon apologized “for offending the community” and said it will ask members of the Western New York community to help design a new mosaic to replace the controversial one.
“Our commitment is to remove the floor (it is currently covered with a rug) and represent Buffalo in a way that they are proud of,” Palmieri said. “We look forward to enrolling our community into design inspiration for the store.”
The mosaic will remain covered until it can be replaced.
Sports fans on social media called for a boycott of the store, used hashtags such as #disrespectful and called it a “slap in the face.”
“Don’t ever make fun of my city,” tweeted @BuffaloGrlProbs.
“We can make fun of ourselves. You can not,” tweeted @allysebian
But the store manager insists the company’s heart was in the right place.
“I was born and bred in Buffalo,” Palmieri said. “I would never let an outsider talk about my city in a negative way.”
Lululemon Athletica is based in Vancouver, B.C. The decor of each of the company’s more than 250 stores around the world is localized to reflect the community around it.
The company conducted more than two years of research into the culture of the Buffalo market before it opened its Walden Galleria store in May.
It asked customers at its temporary Snyder showroom what they wanted in a Buffalo location and studied how people identify with the region. The mosaic came out of that two years of research, she said.
“I remember exactly where I was when those two events happened. I remember what I was wearing, what I was eating,” Palmieri said. “It was meant to capture our passion and our spirit as a proud, sports-crazy town.”
A community bulletin board in the store uses a heart symbol to mark Buffalo’s place on a map of New York State and bears the buzzword “Buffalove.” A fountain in the back of the store was reproduced in miniature from a photo of the 1901 Pan-American Exposition. Pillows in a seating area are emblazoned with “716” and “Buffalo.”
Lululemon responded on Twitter to user @arkandove, who was the first to express annoyance about the mosaic.
“The inspiration behind this art was how these games solidified Buffalo as a proud and loyal community,” the company Tweeted.
Though “No Goal” bumper stickers were once ubiquitous in Western New York, fans said they want to move forward and forget the references to two moves they believe cost them a Super Bowl ring and the Stanley Cup.
With goodwill toward the teams at a fever pitch and a new owner in place, Buffalo sports fans said they are in no mood to look back at what one fan called “our saddest moments”.
But others shrugged it off as a big brouhaha over nothing.
“I wouldn’t take offense, personally,” said Carrie Brock of Williamsville. “I think there are bigger things in life to worry about.”
Cassie Wegrzyn of Buffalo agreed.
“I get what Lululemon was trying to do,” she said. “I don’t think they meant it as a ‘ha ha,’ but I don’t think it should be there, either.”
In her blog “The Yoga Bag,” University at Buffalo psychology professor Catherin Cook-Cottone defended Lululemon’s use of the phrases, saying they are empowering and a part of “our shared history.”
“It is our efforts, our trials and tribulations and our ability to dig deep, try again, and persevere that make us who we are,” she writes.
This is not the first time Lululemon has ruffled feathers. The company’s co-founder Chip Wilson stepped down from his position as chairman late last year after he was taken to task for saying “Some women’s bodies just don’t actually work” in its yoga pants.
“It’s really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there over a period of time and how they much they use it,” Wilson said.
Many consumers took that statement to mean fuller-figured women’s body shapes were to blame for a defect in its clothing that caused certain pants to wear thin and become see-through.