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Vulgar shirt vs freedom of speech: student misses flight

March 26, 2015 Aviation, Headline News 2 Comments Email Email

egtmedia59A student on a US domestic flight who got off to stretch his legs at an intermediate transit point wasn’t allowed back on the flight because the gate agent judged a word on his T-shirt too vulgar.

The incident has triggered a debate in the US about the First Amendment (which guarantees freedom of speech) versus the right of other passengers to be protected from language they might find objectionable.

The flight was on Southwest from Dallas to Chicago and the intermediate point was St Louis, which wasn’t scheduled but happened because of bad weather in Chicago.

The student’s T-shirt, promoting a comedy show called Broad City, said in bold block letters: “BROAD F****** CITY!” with the F-word spelled out. The T-shirt was one of thousands handed out by organisers of the South by Southwest festival the student has just attended, CNN reported.

Student in T-shirt with offending word pixellated out

Student in T-shirt with offending word pixellated out

The student apparently wore a jacket over the T-shirt when boarding in Dallas but then took the jacket off.

When trying to reboard the aircraft in St Louis the gate agent noticed the shirt, objected and ordered the student to remove it.

Video footage of the confrontation shows the gate agent asking the student if he can change the shirt. The student refused to do that, or to put his jacket on throughout the flight, or to turn his shirt inside out.

“I have freedom of speech,” the student said. The gate agent said the airline had the right to refuse carriage.

The impasse led the student to miss the flight.

“There are more than a hundred people on the plane trying to get to Chicago and the most important thing is my shirt?” the student asked afterwards, indignantly. “How does that work? Where’s the sense of priority?”

Southwest Airlines backed the actions of the gate agent and its crew.

The outcome: The standoff was defused when the student finally agreed to change his shirt. He caught a later Southwest flight to his final destination of New York.

Written by : Peter Needham

Currently there are "2 comments" on this Article:

  1. stingforever says:

    ….freedom of speech is not absolute… it carries certain responsibility….the ef word maybe acceptable to some but not to everyone … and therefore people should follow whatever policy any business has… so long as it is also acceptable and legit…

  2. Robbo says:

    A moronic airline attendant, the hired help, you know the ones, in America, usually very old, overweight, bitter and twisted as they never rose above airline attendant status. So bored with their jobs usually. They have far too much power for their intellectual levels. Big deal. The kid should be able to wear what he wants. Does this mean if I object to women wearing tattoo’s or having a nose ring, which I find offensive, I can object and have them thrown off a plane? How far do the PC police take it? It’s becoming ridiculous.

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