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.
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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