A Twitter photo of a sign many have called racist has landed the fast-food restaurant chain Sonic in hot water and prompted the company to issue a public apology.
The controversy began after a Sonic location in Belton, Missouri, put up a sign on Sunday that encouraged the Kansas City Chiefs pro football team to "scalp" the Washington Redskins and send them "2 [the] reservation." Soon after, passerby Delores Schilling snapped a pic of the sign and posted the following tweet:
Yahoo Shine could not reach a Sonic representative for comment. However, on Sunday, Patrick Lenow, vice president of public relations at Sonic, told NBC News, "The remarks posted on this message board were wrong, offensive and unacceptable ... In a misguided effort to support his football team an independent franchise owner allowed passion to override good judgment. The owner has reinforced with his employees the boundaries of what is acceptable and unacceptable. On behalf of the franchise owner and our entire brand we apologize for the offensive remarks." Lenow added that the sign was up for only a few hours and that the employee who created the sign was "very apologetic."
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Unsurprisingly, the sign prompted heated reaction.
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“Unfortunately, these types of stereotypes are more common than not, because much of what’s believed about American Indians is learned from fictional Hollywood movies,” Tim Johnson, a Mohawk from the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve and associate director for museum programs at the Smithsonian Institution, tells Yahoo Shine.
“People may assume certain things about American Indian culture perhaps because of a lack of visibility or because there’s a puzzling idea that society at large can define American Indian culture better than American Indians themselves,” says Johnson. He adds that these types of cultural stereotypes can be especially harmful for American Indian teenagers, who are likely to grapple with their identities in their formative years. “The good thing about social media is that mistakes like this can be quickly corrected and learned from," he says.
The Sonic sign is only the latest example of companies releasing (and then apologizing for) racially insensitive messages. In May, Pepsi Co. pulled an ad for soft drink Mountain Dew after a blogger called it "arguably the most racist commercial in history." The ad featured a police lineup with five African American men wearing stereotypical "thug" clothing, along with a goat. A bruised, blond Caucasian woman then surveys the lineup while a warden says, "We got 'em all lined up, nail the little sucker" and after the goat yells at the woman to keep her mouth shut, she runs screaming from the room.
In November, McCutcheon & Hamner, a law firm in Florence, Alabama, released an ad on its YouTube page showing marketing representative Jim DeBerry dressed in traditional Chinese clothing and wearing novelty glasses with closed, slanted eyes painted on them. Although the company claimed that its YouTube page had been hacked and it hadn't approved the ad, it apologized for offending anyone who watched it. That same month, Home Depot said it was sorry for tweeting a photo of two African American drummers with a person wearing a gorilla mask standing between them. The copy read, "Which drummer is not like the others?" As a result of the backlash, the company fired the employee responsible for the tweet. And in 2012, actor Ashton Kutcher appeared in an ad for Popchips with his face tinted brown, wearing a fake bushy mustache and traditional Indian garb. "I'm Raj — I'm a Bollywood producer," Kutcher said in a stereotypical Indian accent. Popchips ended up pulling the ad after public complaints.
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