MADELEINE BRAND, host:
Back now with Day to Day. The snowboard like it streetwise because the skateboard can be a symbol of rebellious youth. A lot of snowboards have been customized with all sorts of images, images that some parents may not appreciate. The Burton Snowboard Company is under scrutiny now for what its boards look like. Vermont Public Radio's Nina Keck reports.
NINA KECK: Burton, the leader in the snowboard industry, has long been revered by Vermonters for its success, innovation, and ties to the community. But this fall, the company's image took a nosedive when they began selling boards featuring Playboy pinups and cartoons of self mutilation.
Donna Carpenter co-owns Burton with her husband, Jake. She says initially, she'd had reservations about the Playboy images. But she says the photos are kitschy and have a sense of humor, and female riders she's talked to are not offended.
Ms. DONNA CARPENTER (Co-Owner, Burton Snowboard Company): I mean, I think that there really is a generational difference in terms of what constitutes pornography.
KECK: As a mother, she understands some of the concerns, but says it's up to parents to educate their kids about what they deem appropriate. Mark Redmond(ph) bristles at that.
Mr. MARK REDMOND: I have a child who's six, and he skis. And while people do have the right if they wish to purchase a Playboy magazine or go on a website or whatever in the privacy of their homes. I really don't want my six-year-old to see Playboy centerfolds. And I think this has resonated with a lot of Vermonters who are emailing me and calling me constantly and saying, you're right. Enough is enough.
KECK: Redmond directs a non-profit agency in Burlington that helps at-risk children and families. Objectifying women is bad enough, he says, but another line of Burton snowboards features cartoon graphics of one hand mutilating another. The bloody stumps are then shown in comical posses.
Mr. REDMOND: And I keep going back to, how do you, as a parent, explain to your child, gee, why is there a picture there of somebody cutting their fingers off?
KECK: He says it's disappointing because Burton runs a highly respected outreach program that provides free gear and lessons for kids in need. In the past, his agency has benefited. But Redmond says, this year, he said no.
(Soundbite of snowboarding)
KECK: Snowboarders enjoying the first runs of the season last week at Killington seemed less concerned. Like many riders, Heather House(ph) thinks the controversy's overblown. She says these sorts of images are widespread in the industry.
Ms. HEATHER HOUSE: It's a free country, and in my opinion, it's actually a classy way that the photographs are taken. It's art.
KECK: Lisa Laired(ph) shakes her head as she looks at photographs of the boards.
Unidentified Girl: I got it.
KECK: Watching her daughter play soccer, she says sex and violence may sell, but as a mother, she's no longer buying.
Ms. LISA LAIRED: Because they've made a decision to not think about the well-being of all children, why would I want to wear their Burton jacket or their gloves?
KECK: Company founder Jake Burton Carpenter says that, while they make boards for everybody, their core market, the group that put them on the map, is young men. And, he says, their graphics reflect that.
Ms. JAKE BURTON CARPENTER (Founder, Burton Snowboard Company): We've never been the brand that builds our graphics or our products around what mom wants. We make the product and deicide the product for the person that's going to use it.
KECK: Despite protests and public outcry, Burton Carpenter describes sales of the controversial love and primo boards as epic. For NPR News, I'm Nina Keck in Chittenden, Vermont.
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