Sunday, January 25, 2009

President Barack Obama 'Offensive.' Sam's Club Says So

So there he was, minding his own business, doing his job at a Jacksonville, Fla. Sam's Club, when Shane Rhiles was asked to take his shirt off.

Why? Because a customer found the shirt – with President Barack Obama's face on it – offensive.

A story on Jacksonville's Channel 4 says that Rhiles was told by a supervisor that a customer didn't like the shirt, so he needed to go home and change.

"I was like, 'Is it that serious?'" Rhies told Channel 4. "She was like, 'Yes, because we don't need any problems.' I was like, 'Well he's the 44th president of the United States of America."

Overuse of "like" notwithstanding, it's out of line when a customer can claim to be offended by a t-shirt of our president. Especially when the shirt doesn't say anything offensive, depict anything offensive, or have anything offensive on it at all.

"He's our president – the first black president. This is an accomplishment for many people, so I didn't want to take the shift off and I wasn't going to take the shirt off," said Rhiles.

So instead, submitting to Wal-Mart/Sam's Club fascism and oppression of his First Amendment rights (see Correction below), Rhiles bought another shirt (I hope he got the employee discount), and wore it over the anarchic, chaos-inducing Obama t-shirt. Then he looked up Sam's Club dress code.

As far as t-shirts go, "associates may wear solid color T-shirts and denim shirts with logos as long as they do not contain messages that are offensive, crude or otherwise inappropriate."

So, either some bigot or die-hard Republican was offended by the face of our new president? Did someone not like the shirt, because it reminded them that their guy didn't win?

Since when is wearing the face of our country's leader on your shirt offensive? Would Sam's Club have done the same thing if McCain had won, and someone wore his t-shirt? (Or, more likely, his Bermuda shorts pulled up to his armpits.) If they're worried about people being offended by things in their store, then why do they sell Ann Coulter's books?

People in this country have an overdeveloped sense of entitled outrage. They think that just because they feel annoyed, they have to make life as difficult as they can for other people. If you don't like something, you're entitled to your feelings and your opinion. But you don't have the right to inflict your narrow-mindedness on someone else, just because you don't like what they think.

"His face is not offensive to me. I don't know if they may have a problem with it, but I think if you have a problem with his face, you need to reevaluate yourself because he's our president," Rhiles said.

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Correction: I've had several people point out, both on here and on Reddit, that this is not a First Amendment issue.

It really isn't, and I actually know that. The only way it would be a First Amendment violation is if Sam's Club was the government or received federal or state funding, (e.g. a public university). Since they're not and don't, they can tell Rhiles to wear whatever they want.

I promise I did know this, but I was caught up in the moment of finger pointing and soapbox standing to notice. So, my apologies to the people who caught the error and I promise not to do it again.

Also, the point that was more interesting to me was not that Sam's Club made Rhiles take off the shirt, but that a customer found it offensive and Sam's Club didn't take the stance that, like it or not, Obama is our president, and our employee hasn't done anything wrong by recognizing that fact.

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27 comments:

  1. unfortunately you don't have any protection under the first amendment in private institutions. your argument is moot.

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  2. Hey, it looks like Barak's wearing a Muslim-esque head-covering. I'm not offended, but Barak might be.

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  3. It's sad that someone would be offended by an image of the president, but said t-shirt is not part of the dress code as it is neither a solid color t-shirt nor a denim shirt with a logo.

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  4. ll heck if Sams Club says so, then it must be so! LOL

    RT
    www.privacy-tools.net.tc

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  5. AMEN!!

    I just went through drama like this today in regards to my religious beliefs, or lack thereof.

    Peace!
    Sarah

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  6. Sam's Club needs to substantiate. Otherwise, they're bunk.

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. Unifying president that he is, he's still a politician and politics is still a controversial topic. 47% of Americans voted for the other guy, so the overly-sensitive among that group might find the t-shirt to be rubbing it in.

    What if he had been wearing a picture of Bush? Surely someone would have found that offensive.

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  9. Political statements do not belong in the workplace.

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  10. So, the problem here is that this wouldn't be likely to happen if someone was to wear a GW Bush or even Bill Clinton t-shirt. It exposes how far this country has to go, still.

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  11. The situation would have had the exact same outcome if he was wearing a shirt with George Bush on it. I side with Sam's Club - politics don't belong in the workplace because they disrupt business.

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  12. The customer could be an Obama supporter and found the t-shirt disrespectful to the figure of the president.

    If everyone is entitled to express whatever they want I should feel free to use my right to be offended by anything I want.

    SAM's as a private company can establish dress codes. They also pay the employees for following that dress code, among other things.

    C'mon. If you're all for the civic right movement do something more meaningful than wearing a t-shirt at work.

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  13. Here's a better reason to not shop at Sam's Club. They treat you like you're stealing something by default. Receipt check at the door? No thanks, I've got other options for shopping.

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  14. FYI He is half black!

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  15. When the elections were going on, the employees where I work (for the goverment) were told we could not wear any attire, buttons, etc bearing the name, face, etc. of any of the candidates. Now that the election is over, I guess the rule still stands, not just at Sam's. But what about dead presidents? Would anyone find it offensive if I wore an Abraham Lincoln T-shirt?

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  16. you mean there are racists that shop at sam's club in jacksonville? unbelievable. also amazing that sam's club encourages it. any other explanation is missing the point. let's be honest with ourselves.

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  17. This is directly to the author.

    Whether or not the shirt was offensive, you are posting this because you feel that Rhiles' right to free speech as an American was revoked without justification.

    I agree.

    But by removing the post by user 'mike' you are revoking his right to free speech whether it be insightful, controversial, uplifting or degrading, you are only succumbing to the same hypocrisy you are blogging against.

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  18. @¡¡ʞunɹp os ɯ,ı I didn't actually remove his post, I think he did (when the comment said "removed by author," I think it was referring to the author of the comment, not the blog author). To be honest, I hadn't even seen it. It was deleted when I found it.

    BTW, I think @SteveJobs is right. There really ARE no First Amendment protections from a private institution like Sam's Club. They truly CAN tell Rhiles not to wear that t-shirt, and he has no First Amendment recourse.

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  19. If you thought it was OK for the grocery store to refuse to make the birthday cake for the kid named "Adolph Hitler", or you think it was OK for anyone at any time EVER, for any reason at all, to stand up and say "that is offensive, please take it somewhere else" then you don't have a leg to stand on in this subject. If you think that neo-nazis shouldn't be allowed to march, then you are of the same mind as the person who was offended by this shirt.

    Either we have freedom of expression, or we do not. If it becomes freedom of expression except when it is offensive, it is entirely lost. And no, it's not OK just so long as you agree with the definition of offensive being used. If you think racist, sexist, bad taste, etc things are OK to remove because they are offensive, but not something you like, then you're just an intellectually worthless human being. Please know that in your heart.

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  20. Whether the shirt was "offensive" or not, an employer has the right to enforce a dress code and dictate what an employee may wear at work. If the employee had been told off for wearing it on his own time, say while on a break, then there'd be an issue. But there isn't.

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  21. Yet another reason to not shop at Sam's club or Walmart. They are both scared to death of this president because he will approve FOCA and employees will get a much better change of forming unions.

    The problem with their stance is that they did not state that he could not wear it because of dress code but because a customer was "offended".

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  22. @otakucode
    I'm sorry but there is a big difference between freedom of speech and hate-speech. Naming your kid "Adolf Hitler" is clearly in the latter category.

    Either way this is OT, your employer has the right to tell you what to wear, and you have the right to quit.

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  23. Since the employer has the right to determine what is appropriate attire for their company, they can pretty much do whatever they want in this regard. However, that being said, they should have exercised their right NOT to punish this guy for wearing that shirt. They should have been smart enough to have instituted a much more specific dress code.

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  24. First off we would like to congratulate you on your fine public speaking skills. It looks like those who said the Obama Administration would strike while the iron is hot may have been correct, and the Administration may be doing it in a way that does not require them to even get a vote in Congress.

    Thanks,
    Sujan
    my site

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  25. since when was a president ever treated like a celebrity that we wear shirts, hats and shoes with their face on it? never, so why now?

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  26. @Yankee82614, who knows why it started. I think as society has changed and gotten, in some ways, sillier and ideas of what's "right and appropriate" have changed, it has become more acceptable to do things like putting presidents on t-shirts.

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  27. I'm not a big fan of the president of the United States either (mostly because I'm not a big fan of government or people who work for it), but to require someone to take off a shirt depicting his face? That's extremely out of line. I have had it up to here with corporations placating completely ridiculous claims of offence (such as "somebody said 'penis'" or "somebody was wearing a religious symbol other than my own")yet completely dismissing or using the run-around method on legitimate claims (such as "you're too understaffed" or "I can never find anyone here to help me"). So, if you're offended by a picture of Barack Obama, the problem probably lies with you. If you're offended by the fact that a company is pushing its store credit card on you, then they need to fire pillock who did it regardless of whether or not he was told to.

    In conclusion we need to stop worrying about who we might offend when we say or do things because it's tearing society apart.

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