A guy in a shirt that said "Broad Fucking City" on it got kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight in St. Louis on Monday. It's a move the airline is calling an exercise in "common sense and good judgment"—and since the shirt is an advertisement for a TV show, Comedy Central is probably calling it "pennies from heaven."
The guy, a college student named Daniel Podolsky, was on a flight from Dallas to Chicago and only made an unscheduled stop at St. Louis's Lambert Airport because of inclement weather. Podolsky told a Fox TV news crew that a flight attendant asked him to turn his shirt inside out when the plane first landed at Lambert. He declined, then got off the plane to use the bathroom.
"It was only when I got back on the plane when it was going to take of... that I took my jacket off," he said. "And so [the flight attendant] sent someone to remove me from the flight." Podolsky says he would have done something about it but, "it just happened so fast. Within 30 seconds, the flight was already gone. I would've gladly done so."
There's video footage of his initial standoff with a flight attendant, but it's about as riveting as watching a lunch lady tell someone they can only have one scoop of mashed potatoes. However, it does make it apparent that he wasn't as cooperative as he portrayed himself to the local news, considering he flatly says, "I have freedom of speech" when he's asked to put his jacket back on.
And he's right. He does have freedom of speech. After all, I'd be upset if an airline didn't want me wearing my hilarious hat that says "FBI: Female Body Inspector." But with airlines having exercised their right to be a bunch of lame puritans over the years, and not really suffering for it, I personally wouldn't take the gamble.
For instance, in 2004, a guy with an image of an uncovered woman's boob on his shirt got kicked off an American Airlines flight. The passenger, Oscar Arela, along with his girlfriend, took a stand, and held firm—an image of a topless woman was something the people on that flight needed to see. And for their trouble, they got booted from the flight and had their tickets refunded.
Until someone invents a protected group for people who need to display profanity and nudity all the time, taking a stand against an airline on the basis of your first amendment rights isn't going to make much of a splash. But that's not to say the clothes of airline passengers haven't triggered much-needed debates.
In 2006, a woman named Kyla Ebbert got accosted by a Southwest Airlines flight attendant because she was wearing the outfit you see above, including a cleavage-less top, and skirt that is, I guess, on the short side. Problems really arose when Ebbert turned out not to have any change of wardrobe with her at all, because she was just taking a day trip somewhere to see her doctor.
The flight attendant, identified as "Keith" told Ebbert she'd have to take a different flight because Southwest is a "family airline," whatever that means. "I told him I would hold my sweater close the entire flight," she told Matt Lauer. And as for the skirt, "I would pull it down as far as I possibly could."
They later explained that thanks to all this skirt-tugging, and sweater draping, the flight went without a hitch. They explained that they don't have a dress code, "if she's covered up in all the right spots." The "right spots" apparently being her lower thighs and the flat part of her chest. Ebbert got a lawyer, and when she was on TV, her representatives told NBC they hadn't yet decided whether to sue.
It's a borderline case. Slut-shaming is dumb and wrong, but it's not a slam dunk of a lawsuit. However, in 2003, Hansdip Singh Bindra, had a 360-degree under-the-leg dunk of a lawsuit, because a flight attendant didn't like his turban.
Mr. Singh Bindra, a Sikh from New Jersey, got into that classic post-9/11 scuffle where someone mistook him for a Muslim. In his case, it was a flight attendant working for Atlantic Coast Airlines, a division of Delta. He claimed that the flight attendant, Janet Thomas, came up to him right after he got a magazine out of the overhead compartment and "berated him," according to an AP story. Apparently she told him—probably thinking she was giving him friendly advice—that "because of the situation in the Middle East, you have to keep a low profile."
The following year, Delta settled for an undisclosed sum that was "satisfactory to all parties concerned, including Mr. Bindra."
As for Podolsky, the hero in the shirt with the word "fucking" on it? While his moral stance warmed the hearts of potty mouths everywhere, the case will probably be relegated to the dustbin of history, like the guy in 1989 who was kicked off a plane because he stank.
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