Stickers and banners at Ride Snowboard booths for trade shows in Las Vegas and Montreal carried the slogan, "The worst thing about riding a Burton is telling your friend you're gay."
Ride and Burton are major competitors in the snowboard market.
New York Times ad columnist Stuart Elliott reports, "According to Dick Heckmann, chairman and
chief executive at K2 in Carlsbad, Calif., as well as Wayne Merck, president and chief operating officer, the display -- aimed at a Ride competitor, Burton -- was the work of two employees acting without the approval or the authority of either Ride or K2.
"Clearly, we have a couple people who were way out of bounds, exercising unbelievably bad judgment," Mr. Heckmann says.
The employees have been disciplined, he adds, and apologies have been made to Burton, the trade associations that sponsored the shows at which the displays appeared and "everyone who contacted us" to complain.
"We were very upset and appalled," he adds, "and it will never happen again."
Computer users who click on a link on the Ride Web site (ridesnowboards.com) labeled "Ride apologizes for unauthorized actions" are connected to remarks by Robert Marcovitch, the president of Ride, apologizing for what he describes as "a very inappropriate and insensitive statement." The employees responsible "have been suspended
without pay," he writes, and required to take part in "a program that will heighten their sensitivity and socia tolerance," after which "they will remain on probationary status for an additional period of time."
The full text of the apology from Ride Snowboards president Robert Marcovitch online, which does not describe the incident in detail, says:
"It has recently come to the attention of management at Ride Snowboards that a very inappropriate and insensitive statement was posted at our recent industry trade show booth. At the outset, we must be clear that our company and its employees in no way condone or otherwise support this type of activity or message. We are very disturbed by its occurrence.
"Since we became aware of this activity, Ride Snowboards has responded to each individual who has contacted us to apologize to all those offended by this incident. We fully appreciate the extent of disappointment and dismay. In response to specific concerns expressed to us, we would like to clarify that this statement was in no way authorized, and we were as surprised and offended by its existence as the individuals we have recently heard from.
"Throughout Ride's 11-year history, we have always attempted to hire, educate, and maintain a non-judgmental and socially open-minded workforce and we continue to act in accordance with that goal. Accordingly, the employees responsible for this incident have been suspended without pay for a period during which they have agreed to participate in a program that will heighten their sensitivity and social tolerance. Upon returning to their jobs, the individuals will remain on probationary status for an additional period of time.
"Furthermore, although this incident was limited to the actions of a few, Ride Snowboards will begin to immediately re-educate all of its employees on its existing company policy of zero tolerance for any workplace harassment which includes negative conduct to an individual because of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability.
"We have also taken steps to communicate our sentiment directly to NSIA as well as to all individuals and organizations that have contacted us regarding this incident.
"To those most directly offended by the statements made, our customers and the public generally, we thank you for your understanding in this matter - and again offer our sincerest apologies and commitment to zero tolerance in matters like this."