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NHL merchandise pulled from stores due to 'blatant cultural appropriation'

Has political correctness gone too far?

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It feels like it isn't the first time that controversy is hitting the National Hockey League when it comes to acknowledging the inappropriateness of the logo and the team’s name, mascots or in this new case, merchandise. 

CBC News has reported that "hockey-themed totem poles have been removed from shelves at nine Lawtons drugstore locations across Nova Scotia, following a complaint that called them "blatant cultural appropriation."

Pictures of the controversial merchandise were posted by Rebecca Thomas, who is Mi'kmaw and a former Halifax poet laureate, who noticed the items and tweeted at the company. She posted on her Twitter account that the items are "awful appropriative pieces of trash" that undermine West Coast Indigenous culture.

"Totem poles mean something to the communities who practice this tradition. All it would have taken was one person up the chain of command in procurement to stop and question this item," Thomas said in a statement to CBC News.

"Had this happened, Lawtons might not be in this current predicament."

Lawtons quickly responded to Thomas and said it would be taking the merchandise off store shelves.

"We are in the process of connecting with the supplier to express our concerns and the feedback we received," Sarah McLean, director of external communications, said in an email to CBC News.

"We are committed to providing a positive and inclusive shopping experience for all of our customers."

While Lawtons responded appropriately to the controversy, many remain upset with the NHL, claiming the league has a responsibility when it comes to the products it endorses.

"If an organization with the power and reach and wealth of the NHL said, 'No, we won't accept cultural appropriation,' then the drugstore wouldn't have had the option to purchase it in the first place," added Carey Newman, an accomplished Sooke, B.C.-based multi-disciplinary artist and master carver of Kwakwak'awakw descent.

The NHL is need to be careful, especially as it moves forward with the latest expansion in Seattle. One of the suggested names of the new team is said to be Totems. The League already faced issues with the controversy surrounding the name and logo of the Chicago Blackhawks. While addressing the controversy, the Hawks have worked with the American Indian Center to help educate their community and fan base by sharing Native American culture and history.

The Cleveland Indians of Major League Baseball previously announced that they would be dropping their mascot and one of their main logos, Chief Wahoo, by 2019. The logo has been widely regarded as racist, as it pictures a smiling caricature of an Indigenous leader.