You don't have to crochet American flags with Glenn Beck on the regs to know that relations between the nation's police forces and the general public are coming to a bloody head. The militarization of domestic police forces coupled with the many recent cases of mistreatment toward minorities has led to growing tension between civilians and law officers.
One element of the backlash has been the multiple cases of restaurant employees actually refusing service to cops, from a drive-thru in Florida to a cafe in Portland. Earlier this month, a Florida employee of Arby's denied service to a Pembroke Pines Police sergeant. The employee was able to keep his job after the chain's CEO offered an apology and free meals for one day to all local police officers.
Now, two police officers said they were refused service this week at a North Texas Whataburger. The employee has since been terminated from his long-held job at the franchise, and the company itself has apologized profusely for the incident—which, of course, has gone viral.
The city marshal of Strawn, Texas, Michael Magovern, stopped at the Lewisville Whataburger with another officer on Wednesday for lunch. What happened thereafter is not entirely clear. Magovern says the employee—whose name has not been released—told the two officers "We don't serve police officers."
A local ABC affiliate spoke to the now-fired employee, who has received countless death threats, only to find out that he is claiming the whole ordeal was simply "a joke" that spiraled out of control.
According to WFAA local news, Magovern said he thought the employee might be joking, but when he asked the employee if he was joking, the employee did not concded. Magovern said, "The gentleman behind the counter said, 'We don't serve police officers.' No smile. No hilarity. Nothing."
The employee told local news that the marshal's initial belief—that he was joking—was correct. He claimed co-workers know he likes to joke around. He also says he tried to explain to the officers that he was just kidding around "I told them, 'Look man, it was just a joke, And I apologize if y'all took it the wrong way," the former employee told News 8. "I said, 'It was just a joke, I do that to a lot of police officers.'"
The Whataburger employee even claims that one of the police officers said to him, "We're going to make you a star tonight."
The officers state the employee never said it was a joke.
Whataburger didn't find the ordeal humorous either. They fired the employee, who is in his 50s and had worked for the chain for nine years. He tearfully told local news reporters that he was sorry for the comment and the attention it has drawn.
"I want to apologize to [Whataburger]," the employee said. "I love all y'all, and I'm going to miss working for you all."
Whataburger released this statement regarding the situation Wednesday morning: "We were appalled to hear of an employee refusing service to two officers, as we have proudly served first responders across our system for decades. As soon as we heard of this isolated incident, we began our own internal investigation overnight. The employee that refused service is no longer employed with Whataburger. We've also invited the officers back today so we can apologize in person and make this right."
Yesterday, the officer headed back to the Lewisville Whataburger where he was invited by the chain's headquarters to receive an apology in person.
"No person should make that comment to anybody," Marshal Magovern said.
While every American has the right to express their opinion, there has to be a better and far more effective method than refusing to give a police officer his double cheeseburger. Especially if it's all just one big, poorly executed joke.