Trading card manufacturer Topps unveiled its Grammy-themed Garbage Pail Kids sticker collection on Tuesday. Titled "The Shammy Awards," the collection features illustrations of performers Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Billie Eilish, Megan Thee Stallion, and Harry Styles.
It also featured an illustration of BTS, who performed their Grammy-nominated single "Dynamite" at Sunday's ceremony. Labeled "BTS Bruisers," the illustration showed the South Korean band as whack-a-mole characters, bruised and scarred after being beaten with a Grammy.
The cartoon follows accusations by fans that Grammys producers exploited BTS and their huge reach for ratings, relegating their performance to second-to-last of the night despite high anticipation. The group also lost the award in the Pop Duo/Group category for which they were nominated — the award ultimately went to Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande's "Rain on Me."
A lot of people said Topps' illustration was insensitive, particularly due to increased reports of hate crimes against Asian people, and the fatal shootings at three massage parlors in Georgia yesterday, in which six of the eight victims were Asian. People asked how the drawing was even allowed to be published.
Many said the fact that the illustration was green-lighted for publication was a symptom of how normalized anti-Asian hate has become in society.
The hashtag #RacismIsNotComedy quickly became the top worldwide trend, with BTS fans — known as the ARMY — calling for an apology from both Topps and the author of the illustration.
"You have been actively engaging and RT-ing posts advertising these cards for hours," one user tweeted. "Silently pulling a card showing an Asian act being brutalised is not going to solve anything. #RacismIsNotComedy"
The company has since removed the BTS illustration from its website, and released a statement on Twitter announcing the sticker card had not been printed prior to the criticism and would not be available for purchase.
"We hear and understand our consumers who are upset about the portrayal of BTS in our GPK Shammy Awards product and we apologize for including it," its statement said.
However, people took issue with the statement, saying Topps failed to acknowledge why the illustration was problematic in the first place and had not adequately apologized to the Asian community.
"Your 'apology' should be directed at BTS and the entire Asian community for capitalizing on Asian ridicule and depicting violence against Asians especially in a time where Asian hate crimes are steadily rising," one BTS fan said. "I beg you understand why that was an issue in the first place."
"They removed the BTS caricatures from their lineup but this statement provides no explanation as to why people were upset with it," another person tweeted. "With violence against Asians on the rise, to depict BTS as battered and bruised was unacceptable.
"Take accountability, @Topps. Do better."
BuzzFeed News has reached out to representatives for Topps for further comment.