United Airlines is once again attracting large amounts of negative attention after allowing a passenger to fly across the country wearing a threatening T-shirt.
The shirt, which has previously been noticed by social media being sold outside of the Republican National Convention, read:
“Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.”
The incident was brought to light by Jessica Sidman, the food editor of The Washingtonian magazine, whose brother—a journalist who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of death threats—was on the flight and snapped this picture.
Sidman’s brother approached the flight crew and said he wasn’t comfortable with one of the passengers on the flight threatening the lives of other passengers.
Shortly thereafter, he was escorted off the plane by staff and informed there was nothing they could do about the offensive message.
“I relayed that the shirt was not just offensive, it was threatening the lives of other passengers.”
He told her he didn’t want one passenger threatening to kill other passengers.— Jessica Sidman (@jsidman) October 11, 2019
He told her @United should do the right thing. She went to talk to the captain.— Jessica Sidman (@jsidman) October 11, 2019
He was offered a later flight, but Sidman’s brother turned it down.
He explained why to CNBC in an email:
“I didn’t want this to be about United appeasing me, a single customer. I wanted the airline I flew not to sanction the threatening of murder of any group.”
During the flight, United said nothing to the passenger about his shirt. Two years ago, the company was criticized for throwing two young women off a flight for wearing leggings.
Twitter was outraged at United for their inaction against this implied threat of violence.
As a United Premier 1K customer, this is upsetting. Had I seen it, in my line of work, I would have also considered it a threat. Replace the word "journalist" with any number of vulnerable groups and it would not be ok. C'mon, @United. You are better than this.— Christian Picciolini (@cpicciolini) October 12, 2019
@united you did the absolute wrong thing here. United's responsibility is to create a safe environment. That shirt is a threat. The passenger should've been given the option of changing his shirt or staying. United could've given him a t-shirt to wear...but, this was wrong— Jack Hutton (@jackhutton) October 12, 2019
Many people imagined things would have been different if a group other than journalists had been singled out.
Remember when girls were kicked off a flight for wearing leggings? @united leggings are offensive but not threats of murder? Airlines should not allow these types of violent slogans or images. No other passenger would get away with that but a white man.https://t.co/tQ6DYJNx2J— Eileen Bromley (@EileenBromley1) October 12, 2019
Omg.— Tara Setmayer (@TaraSetmayer) October 12, 2019
This is out of control.
Good God, the airlines have kicked young women off planes for what the airline considered "revealing" clothes. Yet they allow this unchecked? Double standards all around. Shame on you United.— Kathy 🇨🇦🏳️🌈 (@scarletkate) October 12, 2019
Shame on @united for not finding a better solution. What if shirt said, "Rope. Tree. United Pilots....." What then?— Jeff Nianick (@jnianick) October 11, 2019
@united you need to review your policy about how to handle a threat. What’s the difference between a T-shirt and the man holding a sign that said the same? I’m horrified you let him stay.— Regan Fletcher Stephens (@ReganStephens) October 12, 2019
Even in this era of security this passenger was allowed on a flight. United Airlines is fine with passengers who broadcast death threats @united— IntheDeepEnd (@CarolynPure) October 11, 2019
Trump’s America... Another unpatriotic Trump voter who does not believe in freedom of the press.— Lori (@ArizonaActivist) October 13, 2019
A threat of violence against a vulnerable group is not a joke.
Companies like United Airlines should realize this and make sure their policy reflects it.
Have you listened to the first season of George Takei’s podcast, ‘Oh Myyy Pod!‘? In season one we explored the racially charged videos that have taken the internet by storm.
We’re hard at work on season two so be sure to subscribe here so you don’t miss it when it goes live.
Here’s one of our favorite episodes from season one. Enjoy!