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An apparently official The Walking Dead T-shirt was yanked from the shelves of a U.K. department store chain after it was deemed “racist” and “offensive.”

According to a BBC report, the shirt (image below) inspired by the villainous Negan contained a reprint of the nursery rhyme he used before killing his victims along with an image of his barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat: “Eeny meeny miny moe…” The commonly known kids’ rhyme was featured in the sixth season finale of TV’s highest-rated drama, as well as in plenty of other moments in pop culture (Pulp Fiction comes to mind).

But for those unaware, at one point there were versions of rhyme which contained a racial slur, substituting the N-word for “tiger” in the phrase “catch a tiger by the toe.”

That version was taught to American schoolchildren more than a century ago. There is sheet music for the song online by Bert Fitzgibbon dated 1906 with that usage.

Apparently, a Primark customer spotted the shirt, was familiar with the rhyme’s lesser-known usage and told The Sheffield Star, which quoted him as saying, “This image relates directly to the practice of assaulting black people in America … It is directly threatening of a racist assault, and if I were black and were faced by a wearer I would know just where I stood.” The customer went on to point out that he assumes the reference was accidental and that the show and retailer had no idea what they were suggesting.

Primark then said it was pulling the shirt from store shelves and issued a statement: “The T-shirt in question is licensed merchandise for the U.S. television series, The Walking Dead, and the quote and image are taken directly from the show. Any offense caused by its design was wholly unintentional and Primark sincerely apologizes for this.”

What’s interesting about this controversy is the timing. The finale aired last April and the rhyme skittered by without making a blip on the collective outrage meter. The dialogue was also in Robert Kirkman’s comic years before that. Dave Chappelle event parodied the scene when guest hosting Saturday Night Live (though used a different rhyme). But now, 10 months later, with T-shirt in Sheffield, boom.

Ironically, during The Walking Dead scene where Negan uses the rhyme to torment his victims, he hesitates to kill Glenn (who is played by Korean-American actor Steven Yeun), because the villain claims he doesn’t want to appear racist. (Negan later kills Glenn anyway.)

UPDATE: Jeffrey Dean Morgan weighs in on Twitter — and he’s not impressed.

AMC had no immediate comment.


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The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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