California-based retail company, Pacific Sun, more commonly called PacSun, a store known for their T-shirts, has received a lot of backlash this Memorial Day weekend for a T-shirt with an upside down American Flag on it. An upset shopper from Alabama, posted a picture Saturday of the T-shirt that was predominately displayed in the store during their buy one, get one half off Memorial Day sale. The picture was taken at Tanger Outlets in Foley, Alabama. The upset shopper while sympathetic to freedom of speech rights, posted that they felt it was disrespectful to so predominately display the T-shirt on Memorial Day weekend, a holiday that honors fallen soldiers. The picture soon went viral with many veterans expressing their outrage.
The American flag shown upside down is a symbol that according to US Flag Code should only be used “in instances of extreme danger to life and property”, according to many displaying the flag upside down is a symbol of the country in distress. Some took to social media to say that everyone should fly the flag upside down because they believe the country is in distress, but most post were not supportive. Some called for a boycott of the store, others said they would not be shopping there again. A lot of veterans voiced their ire over the shirt, calling it disrespectful. Many called the shirt disgusting, even going so far as calling the store anti-American.
The stores Facebook page has been bombarded with complaints about the shirt since the photo was posted. On Twitter anger over the shirt has prompted the hashtag #boycottpacsun. Actor James Woods of Casino fame took to Twitter to voice his anger over the T-shirt, calling for his 227,000 followers to join him in boycotting the popular store.
According to PacSun’s website the $24 T-shirt, part of rapper A$AP Rocky’s clothing line, has been available since 2014, but the shirt seems to not have offended people until this Memorial Day weekend, when the picture of the upside down American flag shirt started a wave of backlash. PacSun on Monday issued an apology to all who they offended and said that out of respect for those who have served the country, they have decided to stop selling the shirt. They have removed the licensed flag t-shirt from their stores and websites.
So far the rapper A$AP has seemed to escape the wrath of anger from people over the shirt, with people directing their anger at the store alone. At this time the artist has not addressed the issue, perhaps because no one seems to be asking him.
Some were disappointed with the store’s decision to pull the t-shirt, saying that it is was a violation of free speech and does nothing to protect veterans, and instead is a direct attack on the freedoms that so many veterans have died to protect.
The Memorial Day backlash about the American flag T-shirt from PacSun highlights the controversy that “Old Glory” can sometimes bring about. News stories about people and places being told not to fly the flag, to the Eric Sheppard Challenge, and now this, shows the emotions the flag can inspire in people. As a symbol of the nation, it is often used to express anger at policies, war, and inequality, but on Memorial Day, a holiday that calls on the nation to remember and honor its service men and woman who have lost their lives, many feel acts against the flag are inappropriate. It remains to be seen if the store’s apology will be enough to bring back customers, who have vowed to never shop at the store again.
By Jessica Hamel
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Photo Courtesy of George Makris’ Flickr Page-Creative Commons License