A United Airlines passenger was recently spotted wearing a T-shirt that alluded to the lynching of journalists, prompting outrage from another passenger — who has worked in journalism, and complained to the flight crew before takeoff.
The anonymous traveler who objected to the shirt said he felt it was wrong for one passenger to “be allowed to threaten other passengers” and that the airline should not “sanction the threatening of murder of any group.”
On Oct. 11, the unnamed man was spotted boarding a United flight from Los Angeles to Boston, wearing a black tee with the slogan “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required,” on the back. A photo of the man was shared by Twitter user Jessica Sidman, in a post that has since gone viral with over 5,100 shares and 3,400 comments as of Tuesday.
Sidman, who works as a food editor at Washingtonian magazine, said it was her brother who saw the man in the offensive shirt. (According to Forbes, the woman’s brother has also previously worked in journalism, and asked for his name not to be published.) The incident is said to have occurred on United flight 824 on Oct. 11.
“He told the flight attendant and she asked what he wanted her to do,” Sidman continued in a thread. “He told her he didn’t want one passenger threatening to kill other passengers,” she claimed. “He told her @United should do the right thing. She went to talk to the captain.”
“Then security pulled my brother off the plane. He talked to a security official. The security guy said they couldn’t do anything just because it was offensive," the woman alleged.
“My brother said it wasn’t offensive, it was THREATENING,” Sidman went on. “They offered to put my brother on another flight. They didn’t say anything to the guy with the shirt."
Though a spokesperson for United was not immediately available to offer further comment on the story, a representative replied to Sidman on Twitter and asked for more information.
“We appreciate you reaching out to bring this to our attention, Jessica. We'd like to learn more about what occurred and make the appropriate teams aware,” an official said on Friday. “Please have your brother reach out to us directly when he has a moment.”
Though the outcome of that conversation has not been made public, Sidman’s brother confirmed to CNBC that a United employee offered to have him switched to a different flight, though he argued that his larger complaint — the man’s threatening shirt — was not addressed.
“I relayed that the shirt was not just offensive, it was threatening the lives of other passengers,” Sidman’s brother told the outlet.
“I did not think one passenger should be allowed to threaten other passengers (be it on a shirt, on a sign or verbally) and that United should do the right thing,” he further said to Forbes. “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.”
Sidman's brother added that the flight continued with "both passengers on board," as per CNBC.
A shirt with the same message — “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required" — was removed from sale at Walmart in 2017, the BBC reports.