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H&M apologizes following outrage over 'monkey' sweatshirt ad seen as racist

H&M has apologized for an ad featuring a young black boy wearing a hoodie with the word "monkey" on it.
/ Source: TODAY

Clothing retailer H&M is apologizing after fierce backlash over an ad that featured a black child wearing a sweatshirt that read "Coolest Monkey in the Jungle."

The image caused a wave of criticism on social media, with many calling it racist and unacceptable, compelling the company to pull the hoodie from stores worldwide.

R&B star The Weeknd, who had collaborated with the brand on men's collections in the past, announced he will no longer work with H&M after seeing the image.

Celebrities like LeBron James and Snoop Dogg also weighed in, altering the image to put a crown on the boy's head.

"HM u got us all wrong!" James wrote on Instagram. "And we ain't going for it."

"We understand that many people are upset about the image," H&M said in a statement to NBC News. "We who work at H&M can only agree. We are deeply sorry that the picture was taken, and we also regret the actual print."

H&M said it removed the image online and is no longer selling the sweatshirt, but NBC News found it still being sold overnight Tuesday on the company's Spanish website.

The controversy raised the question of how the ad could have made it through the editing process to be publicly displayed.

"It is obvious that our routines have not been followed properly,'' H&M said in its statement. "This is without any doubt. We will thoroughly investigate why this happened to prevent this type of mistake from happening again."

H&M's stumble is the latest controversial ad to land a retailer in hot water. Urban Outfitters apologized in 2014 for a "blood-spattered" faux-vintage T-shirt that appeared to reference the 1970 shootings of unarmed students at Kent State. Another line of Native American-themed clothes and accessories drew protest from the Navajo Nation in 2011.

Shoppers on Amazon were outraged last year over a sweatshirt made by a company called ArturoBuch that appeared to promote anorexia. The New York fashion brand Uzi also faced criticism last year for its Refugee Dress.

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter.