COLUMNIST: Who does it hurt?

The Spectrum Youth and Family Services have made the decision this winter to boycott Burton Snowboards because of their new racy line of snowboard designs.However, the net result is that kids involved in Spectrum Youth are not able to enjoy Burton’s Chill program, which allows underprivileged and at-risk youth to gain self-esteem and confidence through a snowboarding trip in which they are supplied with full gear and snowboarding lessons. I agree that the snowboards are unnecessarily graphic and obscene, but I don’t think that boycotting Burton boards and abandoning the program is a wise choice.It’s a matter of weighing costs and benefits, and in this instance, Spectrum Youth and Family Services needs to think more carefully about choosing their battles. Is it worth it to deny these kids a once in a lifetime opportunity because the heads of the program are offended by the images on the snowboards?They could write a letter to Burton expressing their displeasure with the new boards. They could refuse to use the new boards for the program. But they should not let the kids suffer for their opinions.Critics argue that their children will be exposed to negative and vulgar images, while supporters argue that Burton has the right to free speech and expression.I think that Burton does have the right to produce such graphics on their boards and sell them, and that it is enough to say that if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. But there are other issues – those of freedom, responsibility and maturity.Burton certainly has the right to produce such boards, but I think that it is a problem that the heads of the company do not think of the responsibility they have as a large business that influences our youth. It is irresponsible and immature to promote this new line of boards. They pollute our society with unnecessarily vulgar images. It would be different if they were posters to be put in private homes, but the images on the boards will be on public display. Financial success remains the only goal of too many companies. They don’t think of – or they disregard – the social ramifications of their offensive or detrimental products.It’s not just the company that has the responsibility. We as consumers have the responsibility to purchase sustainably produced and socially acceptable products.Everyone needs to grow up and make more responsible and mature decisions. Spectrum Youth and Family Services should not condemn Burton at the expense of the children. Burton and other companies need to understand the effects that their products have on society and not sell the offensive boards.And we, as people of all ages, should decide not to buy the offensive boards ?- they aren’t really that cool, anyway…