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Osama bin Laden “Dead” Yoga Mats Cause Outrage

in World News, YD News

This is obviously horrid and despicable, and frankly embarrassing. When we posted about the “yoga response” to the news of Osama bin Laden’s death and the subsequent aftermath we couldn’t have anticipated such a  disgraceful showing. As Carol Horton points out at elephantjournal.com, Gaiam has a deal with cafepress.com which evidently doesn’t place restrictions on usage. Rightly outraged, Carol is calling for a protest of the Gaiam mats. However, CafePress has its own guidelines for prohibited content and we feel it’s somewhat unfair to point sole blame at Gaiam, but rather a matter for CP to handle.

CafePress Prohibited Content Guidelines:

  • Content that may infringe on the rights of a third a party.
  • Items that make inappropriate use of Nazi symbols and glamorize the actions of Hitler.
  • Use of marks that signify hate towards another group of people.
  • Hate and/or racist terms.
  • Inappropriate content or nudity that is not artistic in nature.
  • Content that exploits images or the likeness of minors.
  • Obscene and vulgar comments and offensive remarks that harass, threaten, defame or abuse others such as F*** (Ethnic Group).
  • Content that depicts violence, is obscene, abusive, fraudulent or threatening such as an image of a murder victim, morgue shots, promotion of suicide, etc.
  • Content that glamorizes the use of “hard core” illegal substance and drugs such as a person injecting a vial of a substance in their body.
  • Material that is generally offensive or in bad taste, as determined by CafePress.com.

We in turn call for CafePress to step it up and shut down the sale of these items preaching hateful messages. Like YESTERDAY.

Unfortunately, profiteering is to be expected in the land of the free, the home of the brave, patriotic and the entrepreneurially warped. Fortunately, we also somehow can’t imagine too many downdoggers so moved to commemorate the reported killing of a terrorist that they want to be reminded of it every time they bow in child’s pose.

This is so not over folks. Stand strong yogis.

Reach CafePress:

Or call us toll free at 1-877-809-1659.
Monday – Saturday, 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM EST

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Monday – Friday, 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM GMT

International customers, please call 1-402-517-4480.


UPDATE: From Gaiam on facebook

Yes, we are aware of this, and we are working to have all associated products removed from the CafePress site ASAP and to ensure that this does not happen in the future. Please know that this is in no way condoned by Gaiam. We did not create these mats but only provide the blank mats for CafePress customers to customize. Thanks for your concern!

UPDATE PART TWO 5/5/11 via facebook: Gaiam removes all mats from CafePress

Until recently, Gaiam sold blank yoga mats to CafePress for customization and resale.  Unfortunately, their customization engine has recently been used by certain users to promote images and statements that we (and many of our customers and friends) find distasteful and offensive. We want all of our Gaiam family to understand how seriously we take this matter and we have moved swiftly to rectify this situation.



54 comments… add one
  • Deb Asbill

    This seemed too ridiculous to be true, so I spent my lunchtime scrolling through all 1,242 custom yoga mat designs displayed on cafepress.com and did not see any of these on there. Did they remove them, I wonder, or did you, elephantjournal.com contributor, etc. get punked?

    • Stella

      they were there but removed… mats are printed on demand after choosing a design. It’s just a design listed and you can put it on whatever you want.

  • admin

    good question. I believe they exist(ed).
    as of now, if you go to cafepress.com and type “osama bin laden yoga mats” in search they pop up.

  • Oh, they’re there, alright. And it’s not just on yoga mats…these sentiments are all over the site. I’m wondering what’s lacking in CP’s interpretation of “hate” and “racism.” Is no one actually screening what’s created on the site?

  • Deb Asbill

    It appears that cafepress has a system that will automatically “apply” art in their library for certain keywords that people type in to almost every product it will fit on. I hope Gaiam and cafepress figure out a way to block certain art from getting imprinted on their mats when people search for those keywords together (i.e. Osama bin Laden + yoga mat).

  • Here is the link to the Bin Laden mats: http://www.cafepress.com/+osama-bin-laden+yoga-mats.

    While I have every reason to think that Gaiam is a wonderful company and that the people who work there are unhappy about this, I do think that the yoga community has every right to hold yoga companies to a higher ethical standard than Cafe Press.

    This whole debacle raises a lot of important questions. For example, if Gaiam believes in unrestricted free speech, then that value trumps their unhappiness about who puts what on their mats – they are simply providing yet another medium of free expression (distasteful as it may be). If, however, Gaiam believes that it should follow some more restrictive code of yogic and/or political ethics, then it should make it clear what those are and restrict the use of its products to those who follow those guidelines.

    Cafe Press is not part of the yoga community so I would expect them to have the most expansive standards of what’s OK that’s possible – it is after all in their financial interest to sell as much as they can. So while I’m not against YD’s call to contact Cafe Press about this, I have to respectfully disagree with the implicit view that yoga-based companies should not be held to a higher ethical standard than others. I think that we can and should do better.

  • David Emery

    The operative term for this action is “censorship.”

    They’re in bad taste, and if no one buys them, that’s appropriate. But demanding someone remove a product because you don’t particularly like the message strikes me as a violation of someone/some company’s native rights to free speech (no matter how tacky.)

    • Stella

      agreed. Note that these are not already printed up. You choose a design and a product. Who is really going to buy a Osama yoga mat?

      • No, it has nothing to do with free speech, contrary to popular internet understandings of the term. Nobody’s passing laws about what can be on a yoga mat, or arresting anyone for using or selling mats for the wrong slogans on them. Cafe Press and Gaiam are both private companies and have every right/responsibility to decide what’s on their products. Complaining or calling for a boycott of products we find offensive is not a violation of free speech–it IS free speech.

        • JeffreyD

          YogaforCynics: It’s a bunch of whiners keeping a store from selling signs because they disagree with what the signs are saying. Doesn’t matter if it’s a government body or not. A local church leading a drive to get “Harry Potter” removed from the library would also be censorship.

          A “Free Speech” response would be telling somebody “that yoga mat is lame. We should mourn the death of Osama bin Laden.”

          I mean it’s just a stupid yoga mat, this is my 3rd post and I’m sorry to make a big thing out of it. But if it’s worth paying attention to at all, it’s worth doing it right. Maybe I’m just surprised that yogadork would take such an evil stance.

          • I think that a church working to ban the sale of ALL Harry Potter books EVERYWHERE would be promoting censorship. But arguing over whether to have them in THEIR library would be legitimate debate.

            If your definition of free speech is telling “somebody” who has nothing to do with the issue you are concerned about how you feel – but that telling someone who is actually involved is “censorship” – I find that to be a very bizarre understanding of free speech indeed. It’s only acceptable if guaranteed to have no impact on the situation you care about? That doesn’t make sense.

            It’s like saying that “telling somebody” about someone you want to have elected is OK but that working to get out the vote is anti-democratic. Or that mentioning to no one in particular that you don’t like a law is good but working to change it is bad.

            Please remember that Gaiam certainly could have stood up and said, hey, we don’t care what two bloggers think, we believe that our mats should be available to whoever wants to print whatever they want on them and we’re standing by our existing arrangement! No one could have stopped them and that’s as it should be.

            However to call criticizing a company’s (in this case inadvertent) decision to use their brand name to promote religious bigotry in a situation where it’s a very real social problem “evil” I find to be a very strange mind set indeed. What’s the general principle at stake here? It’s evil to criticize a company if that might cause them to make their own free, informed decision to pull back a product that someone somewhere might want to buy? Why?

          • abbylou

            Actually, no– a local church leading a drive to get Harry Potter removed from the library would be the exercise of free speech. If the library, a division of the local government, removed Harry Potter from the collection, then that would be CENSORSHIP.

            Private groups expressing distasteful messages= FREE SPEECH

            Government restricting speech= CENSORSHIP

            It is not censorship unless the government acts.

  • David: The appropriate term is actually “civic or consumer activism.” Censorship is when the broad powers of government are used to block free expression. No one is suggesting that that’s a good idea.

    Yes, Gaiam and Cafe Press have every right to make these products. And we have every right to protest them. Simple as that.

  • JeffreyD

    Of course I think these mats are tacky (in an over-the-top, humorous sort of way). For that reason, I wouldn’t buy one. Well, maybe if it was $3 or less.

    It’s amazing and ridiculous that this site thinks the best response to a tacky yoga mat is to keep other people from buying them. Yogadork is 100% in the wrong on this one.

  • JeffreyD

    If you click on the mats in cafepress that are related to “osama” they will all take you back to the cafepress home page. That includes mats with nothing more than “05-01-2011” printed on them.

    I’ve always considered the yoga community as a bunch of self-important whiners with no grip on reality. I thought yogadork was around largely to satirize this all. Instead, yogadork is part of a successful (if minor) yoga censorship campaign! Congratulations?

  • Stella

    NOW you cannot purchase any GAIAM yoga mat. Including the one that was in my cart BENEFITING LUNGevity which is a LUNG CANCER CHARITY.


    Nope, can’t buy it. so, congrats, your consumer activism worked well.

    Yes, the Osama mats are stupid however since YOGA MATS CATER TO PEOPLE WHO PRACTICE YOGA. According to what I have read, it’s offensive to people that use a yoga mat. I wouldn’t purchase them, & I also wouldn’t purchase a lot of other designs. That is what is so great about the USA, a choice. You can make a crappy choice or a great choice, it’s up to you. It happens every day.

    Nothing is printed until it’s purchased at Cafepress. They offer designs and products. Gaiam supplies them with blank product. Cafepress is seems already got a handle on this publicity nightmare, as it really was their issue to handle.

    Now release the mats.

  • We did not authorize or endorse the images or statements to appear on our yoga mats on CafePress. We have notified CafePress to remove all Gaiam products from their website. For more information, please read our statement at http://on.fb.me/iABuoU

    • Stella

      Again I state LAME. WHO BOUGHT A FLIPPING OSAMA YOGA MAT. This is so stupid.

  • How sad that some feel the need to express such negativity. I wonder if they will have the nerve to actually take them to a studio and use them.

    • Stella

      They were offered… a website that offers DESIGNS that can be put on ANY PRODUCT. I suppose if anyone bought a YOGA MAT, then they also bought an Iphone cover, a tank top and a onesie for their 6 month old as well.

      CAFEPRESS speak up, let us know JUST HOW MANY MILLION YOGA MATS spewing HATRED that you sold… There must be a bunch of closet haters that practice yoga.

  • Amanda

    Maybe I’ve been dropping in on the wrong yoga classes, but I’ve yet to see a mat in class with *any* kind of personalized graphic on it. The idea that a serious practitioner–hell, even a casual practitioner–or for that matter anyone with an inkling of what yoga is about, would even purchase such a thing as an OBL mat is ridiculous. That some clueless fool would even bother to print such graphics on a yoga mat of all things (!) . . . it’s offensive. And ignorant. And stupid.

  • when there is a buck to be made off anything yoga related in this country it will be. and apparently those mats are now off the site.

    • Stella

      It’s a site with hundreds of items you can put thousands of designs on. Not just yoga mats.

      And for the record I was attempting to purchase a LUNGevity yoga mat during this stupidity. That would be a LUNG CANCER research charity. So they get screwed as well because everyone is up in arms over something that was a possibility. Really, really silly.

  • So, I contacted CafePress by e-mail. Although their own printed prohibited guidelines seem to indicate that these messages on the mats should be prohibited, they felt that the messages where not within the guidelines. Interesting. I am pleased with Gaiam’s response and will remain a customer. Not so with CafePress.

    • pam

      Gee, how magnanimous of you. So you’re not much on capitalism and free commerce I take it. CafePress offers many products, many with very positive messages. Perhaps someone needs to explain ‘personalization’ to you….Who are you? The thought police?
      There are better mats than Gaiam’s out there anyway…..I’m just sayin!

  • Stella

    If you try really hard you can find other things on Cafepress that you may disagree with… and a whole lot of positive things as well. Of course something being offensive is really a matter of opinion and if all of you are going to say that it’s not the yoga way, then NONE were sold, so who cares?

  • me

    wow, stella. angry much? perhaps you need to spend a little more time on your (non-osama-graphic-ed) yoga mat. 🙂

    • Stella

      Well, I would however I can’t order my non-osama mat that I wanted to… because they removed the BLANK stock from the site before I clicked purchase for my LUNGevity yoga mat (you know that one that supports the charity for lung cancer research). It is more important to make a bunch of whiners happy rather than one sane person. American Airlines has yet to turn up a piece of luggage from the weekend that would have my loyal purple yoga mat inside. It’s a ridiculous chain of events to make me have to consume my week with ridiculous yoga mats. In fact I believe this will be my last post. I am more bewildered at the ignorance than angry “much” LMAO… It’s pretty obvious that certain people read 2 lines of a story, didn’t grasp the concept of Cafepress and flipped out demanding the mats to be pulled. I think it’s really funny that people who purchase yoga mats would think that other people that purchase yoga mats would purchase such a mat… in which case if purchased THEN would have been printed…no? am I wrong? It’s rational?

      • Sam

        Stella: for goodness sake breathe……

        • Joe

          Because the best way to get someone to calm down is to patronize them, right?

          • Sam

            It has nothing to do with patronizing, Joe. She’s hyperventilating about not getting a flippin’ yoga mat. Perspective is greatly needed.

        • Joe

          But she’s also pointing out how people left all reason behind and flipped out about these mats, without stopping to think that it was someone who created a store at Cafepress that came up with them.

          She’s pointing out that when people flip out about things and start calling boycotts on companies when they weren’t even responsible for a controversial issue, other parties will feel the pain as a result of the actions those companies take to protect their brand.

          It’s a valid point. There’s no reason to dismiss her just because she is emotionally charged when she’s writing.

          • pam

            yea!!! rational yogis unite!!!!

          • Sam

            I think the “flip-out” is on both sides in this matter. Sheesh! Get over it. It’s only a yoga-mat.

            Ever heard of non-attachment??

      • pam

        Stella: I’m with you on this one, so don’t think you’re alone out here. People just really go off the deep end sometimes. While I understand Gaiam pulling their mats off the site because they don’t want hateful images printed on them for those who were already in the process of customizing mats (like Dana, below) it seems unfair. Their mats are kinda cheap anyway….

  • Wow, I thought this was fake. Good for Gaiam to pull out on this one. Kind of weird to think who would order one of these.

    • Aaron

      No one ordered these. That’s the point. Cafepress offers anyone the chance to upload their designs to all the products they offer on their site. So just because they are offered doesn’t mean they were purchased. Someone probably wanted an Osama t-shirt, uploaded their art to the site, and added it to all the products, but only really intended for the design to go on a shirt. That’s why the designs are all square designs that don’t fill the whole mat. Because they weren’t even designed to print on the mat in the first place.

      But then people started freaking out because they did not understand how Cafepress works, and now you can’t even buy many of the really nice yoga mats through the site. By the way Cafepress is a great place for nonprofits and charities to set up shops for their items, and all because one random redneck John Doe uploaded an Osama related design to the site, all these ignorant people are spewing hatred at CafePress.

  • Dana

    I feel you Stella.I was trying to make a mat for a gift for my yoga teacher training instructor. Everyone in my class thought it was such a great idea. I went to purchase and got denied. I called Gaian an CP to see if I could just get the one already in my cart. No dice. Would of been a great gift. Why do we have to suffer for someone else’s stupidity!

  • Aaron

    People don’t seem to understand how Cafepress works. There are over 3 million people who have shops through Cafepress.com and sell their designs on over 250 products. Many of these “shopkeepers” simply upload one design and choose for it to go on all the products on Cafepress. No one is specifically planning to purchase an Osama Yoga mat, it just happens to be one of the 250 products that that shopkeeper added to their shop.

    Also, cafepress doesn’t own the rights to the art used. The art belongs to the customers and shopkeepers who simply grant Cafepress the right to print it and sell it for them. So some Joe Schmo down the street uploaded some Osama art to his Cafepress shop yesterday, and he made it available on all the products (including yoga mats). Nobody bought that specific yoga mat, and it was never really intended to be sold on the yoga mat. But now no one can customize any yoga mat on Cafepress thanks to the idiots who complained.

  • Jen

    Seriously? This is the reason I can’t make a customized yoga mat anymore because something stupid like this. Really LAME. I bought a Groupon for that reason only, now I’m screwed, cuz I really don’t need another Tshirt. If anyone truly practice yoga, they were not condone crap on yoga mat. They would be stupid to walk in a yoga studio with it.

  • Mark-Francis Mullen

    wouldn’t it be TERRIBLE to show up at yoga class, ready to BE LOVE, and then whip out one of these mats? I’d love to talk to the people who use them, to try and understand WHAT THEY ARE THINKING. Yoga is based on ahimsa (non-violence), so maybe these are PILATES MATS?

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