An airport toy shop has been ordered to hide its "golliwogg" dolls after they offended a visiting black American hip hop star.
Big Boi - half of chart-topping hip hop duo Outkast who performed solo at a packed Powerstation on Thursday night - noticed the dolls at Auckland Airport-based Natures Window as he was leaving yesterday.
He posted a picture of the dolls, viewed by many as racist, on Twitter with the message: "Ok, all blacks is a rugby team, but what the **** are these ..."
The comment drew several replies, with one tweeting "throw them in the bin with the person selling them" and another adding: "can't explain that one ... burn the racist airport down".
The dolls did not appear to have soured the rapper's view of Kiwis - he tweeted minutes later that "Despite the Golliwoggs [sic], New Zealanders are cool as ****".
But airport management quickly ordered their removal after being contacted by the Weekend Herald.
"Once we were made aware, the retailer was immediately asked to remove the product from sale," airport corporate relations manager Richard Llewellyn said.
The dolls - sold in white, brown and black - had been sold at the airport for two months without any previous complaints, he said.
"While individual retail companies at the airport make their own choices about the products and services they sell, the airport also has the right to ask those retailers to cease selling products that may be regarded as objectionable or inappropriate.
"In this case we acknowledge that this is a product widely regarded as inappropriate and likely to cause offence, and as a result the retailer has been asked to remove it from sale."
Airport management had not spoken with Big Boi about the dolls, but it was understood he "discussed the matter in some detail" with the shop staff, Mr Llewellyn said.
"We apologise for any offence caused as a result of this product being on sale at the airport."
The store owner could not be reached for comment yesterday but a worker said the order "stinks".
"Now we have to pull them off the shelves and replace them with the white dolls. It sucks."
Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said New Zealanders often did not realise "golliwog" dolls had a controversial history in other countries where many people find them offensive.
"It would be wrong to say that a retailer cannot sell golliwog dolls, but I would have thought that good retailers will be well aware that causing people offence is not good for business, especially at a time when we will be expecting a lot of overseas visitors."
But Richard Thomson, general manager of the gift store chain Acquisitions which stock the dolls, likened the airport's decision to the Nazi Party's burning of books.
"In my view, this is just silliness ... and you're talking to a card-carrying lefty here."
The character the dolls are based on started out in 1895 as brave and lovable in children's books by Florence Kate Upton, before soft-toy versions were made.
They also featured in the Noddy books of Enid Blyton.
But by the 1940s the toys began to be associated with the racial insult "wog" and by the 1960s books - many showing golliwogs as villains - were being withdrawn from libraries because they were seen as racially insensitive.
Their sale sparked outrage in England in 2009, and the visitors' centre at the Queen's estate at Sandringham, Norfolk, removed similar toys from sale and apologised for any offence.