In the controversial photo, a 12-year-old white girl leans her arm on an 8-year-old black girl. Both are members of the same performance troupe, and are adopted sisters.
Critics said the ad gave a message of "passive racism," according to ABC News.
Nathalie Yves Gaulthier, founder of Le Petit Cirque, the youth performance group whose members are featured in the ad, said in a statement: "The child in the ad is not an 'armrest,' she's the other girl's little sister. They are a very close family. The child is a very young (junior) member with Le Petit Cirque, a humanitarian cirque company, and therefore a wee shyer than the more seasoned older outgoing girls. Our company is deeply saddened by some people misconstruing this as racist, and are keeping the children out if this at the moment to protect their beautiful feelings , but we are extremely supportive of dialogue in our country to move past any racial barriers. We stand by Gap Kids and Ellen DeGeneres."
The campaign, which launched last week, was made in collaboration with Ellen DeGeneres' lifestyle brand ED, and Gap is donating $250,000 to the charity Girls Inc. to support its economic literacy program.
Gap decided to replace the image in the campaign and apologized to critics on Monday.
"As a brand with a proud 46-year history of championing diversity and inclusivity, we appreciate the conversation that has taken place and are sorry to anyone we've offended," a Gap spokeswoman said in a statement. "This GapKids campaign highlights true stories of talented girls who are celebrating creative self-expression and sharing their messages of empowerment. We are replacing the image with a different shot from the campaign, which encourages girls (and boys) everywhere to be themselves and feel pride in what makes them unique."
Critics and supporters have been sharply divided on whether or not the image is offensive.
@GapKids the best way to lose the black demographic. Making your only black model an armrest 😒— Stevie W (@steviegenesis) April 3, 2016