Let’s Go Brandon face mask: offensive or acceptable?
A Spirit Airlines traveler was asked to cover his mask to be offensive, but was he?
Asked to cover his mask
A passenger on a Spirit Airlines flight (which reportedly took place on January 28, 2022) documented himself in a video that was widely shared on social media wearing an LED-lit mask that scrolled “Let’s Go Brandon” and ” FJB”. The passenger also wore a hat that appeared to say “Trump” on the back, “45” on the front (Trump was the 45th president) and a “Let’s Go Brandon” sweatshirt.
The (likely edited) video released begins before the Spirit Airlines flight attendant addresses the passenger and appears to be being filmed by the mask wearer (he says so.)
A stewardess addressed the passenger:
Air hostess (FA) off camera: “Can you turn it off?” [refers to the face covering, repeats the question.]
Passenger: “Is there – I’ll carry this one, but-” [receives a blue surgical mask off-camera]
Second off-camera FA: “We’re not going to leave you…” [unclear audio]
Passenger: “I mean, excuse me, uh, I’ll, I’ll wear this but she didn’t give me a reason? Should I turn it off? Like, is there a reason?
Second off-camera FA: “Because it’s offensive.”
Passenger: “Is that offensive?”
Second Off-camera FA: “It may be for some people, so we’re not going to go back and forth, go ahead and put the blue on, okay?”
Passenger: “Okay, so my mask is offensive.” [unwraps plastic around surgical mask]
Second off-camera AF: “That’s good, but you-“
Passenger: “I’m just asking a question. I’m not confrontational, it’s just-”
Second FA off camera: “Ok, so we’re going to put on the blue, right?”
Passenger: “Yes, of course.” [pauses] “Wow, this isn’t America anymore.” [places blue mask over blinking LED mask]
An additional video made by the same passenger was shot in the middle of disembarkation and he had an exchange as he left with two employees before finally exiting the plane. In these exchanges, he drew a parallel between his message and BLM that the airlines did not share.
“Non-offensive hat, non-offensive shirt, non-offensive shoes…” let me stop you there. These shoes are offensive regardless of your political affiliation.
Throughout the video, the passenger is wearing a mask and at one point (although suspected for the rest of the flight, two) and remained in compliance with the mask policy until landing. From what we can tell, he never failed to wear a mask and complied with the FAA directive as guided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Upon disembarking, the video suggests Spirit Airlines fixed the issue its staff had with the mask once they complied. There was no need to call the police and no mention that on arrivals officers were waiting as has sometimes been the case with disruptions on board.
I contacted Spirit over the weekend, but have no official statement to make on this.
What is offensive, acceptable?
Some would argue that if the meaning is the same, it doesn’t really change the message just because alternate words are used. Others would say there’s a line and say the actual words are what’s offensive, not the alternate words.
Although the words are not explicit, he has not broken the law, and he is able to make free political statements outside of Spirit’s plane. But just as freedom of speech and the invocation of its First Amendment right apply in public places, in private settings (like Spirit’s plane) speech can be limited as they see fit and the passenger accepted it when he bought and stole his ticket.
There’s also the argument that the sentiment itself is offensive, but that’s fading pretty quickly given the social decorum on both sides of the aisle over the last 5-6 years in the United States. All manner of anti-Trump gear was seen across the country during his tenure. Before he got his hands on the Bible and took the oath, Madonna publicly declared that she thought about blowing up the White House.
What does it really boil down to: what is offensive and who decides? For example, the wearer doesn’t mention the “FJB” component of their scrolling mask, just the “Let’s Go Brandon” part. Yet his sweatshirt had the same message and he was allowed to wear it on the plane (whether the FA saw it or not is another matter.)
The passenger also lied in at least one video saying “that’s my name, Brandon” although his other posts say his name is Adam. The FA had none of that and challenged them on what ‘Let’s go, Brandon’ means.
Recently, model Olivia Culpo was told to cover up in a revealing top, although another passenger who spoke with the model and who flew on the same American Airlines flight was not asked to cover up despite her own admission that she was revealing more.
Other employees stood aside while Spirit staff allowed the passenger to board without incident noted, so it is clear (as in other cases) that individual employees are authorized to make this call subjective.
Brands, like Spirit, also need to consider their employees and the broader stakeholder perspective.
Still, it begs the question – what is “offensive”, who decides and what can they do about it? In this case, the mask but not the shirt, hat, or shoes were offensive, the flight attendant decides, and they can offer reasonable accommodation to the customer or they can fly on another flight, possibly with another airline .
What makes this difficult is that it will likely vary from flight to flight and encounter to encounter. Wearing a “Let’s Go, Brandon” shirt on a flight may be fine, but next time may justify disembarking.
It should also be noted that this passenger appeared to be intentionally provocative but not disruptive and Spirit staff responded in kind.
Lucky at One Mile At A Time notes that the statement is intentionally offensive and he is right, but some of his other conclusions are not.
“Should I be allowed to wear a mask that says I’m going to blow up the plane, without suffering the consequences? Should I be allowed to dine naked at an Olive Garden? Are people really that stupid, or just dense? »
I respect Lucky, and he’s right that there are rules of society – but comparing the words “Let’s go, Brandon” with shouting fire in a movie theater or bombing on a plane doesn’t apply. not here. They are not the same.
A Spirit Airlines flight attendant, mask and passenger disagreed on Friday over the message on that mask. What remains in dispute is why part of the message was authorized and part was not. Secondary questions about whether an equal hand is used for political statements when swear words are not used remain an industry-wide issue and one faced by businesses more broadly than the travel industry.
What do you think? Was the traveler’s mask offensive? What is the future of subjective determination by employees? What are the consequences for travelers, or more broadly customers?