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(Reuters) - A California-based clothing company said it will no longer sell a T-shirt emblazoned with an upside-down American flag following a barrage of criticism on social media that the item was disrespectful and unpatriotic.
Pacific Sunwear of California Inc, known as PacSun, said in a statement on Monday it was pulling the T-shirt from sale both online and at its 600 retail locations across the United States "out of respect for those who have put their lives on the line for our country."
"We thank the men and women in uniform for their extraordinary service," it said.
The clothing company came under a wave of criticism on social media after promoting the shirt as the U.S. marked Memorial Day, a federal holiday that honors those who have died serving in the military.
"Out of respect for those who have put their lives on the line for our country, I've decided to not shop at PacSun any longer," Dawn Mayer wrote on the Anaheim-based company's Facebook page.
PacSun received scores of similar complaints on Facebook and Twitter.
According to the U.S. Flag Code, the flag should never be displayed with the union down, "except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property." In any other case, depicting a flag upside down is considered disrespectful, according to the code.
PacSun said the image of the inverted flag was meant to be a form of creative expression.
The company also received support from customers who felt the depiction of the flag was an exercise in free speech.
"Most of you don't realize this is a sign of distress from our country," Wesley Erwin wrote on a Facebook thread over the controversy. "Pacsun did nothing wrong. It got taken down because of ignorant people. Have a more open mind."
PacSun sells other items of clothing featuring the American flag, including denim shorts.
Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Mohammad Zargham