A Florida woman claims she was removed from an American Airlines flight because she was black. American Airlines claims it was only due to her refusal to remove an obscene face mask.
Woman Removed From American Airlines Flight For Wearing Obscene Mask
Arlinda Johns, a Florida activist who believes that police departments should be defunded and abolished, tried to wear an obscene mask onboard her American Airlines flight from Charlotte to St. Louis, which included the f-word on it. A flight attendant informed her she could not wear the obscene mask and provided her another mask to wear in its place or over it. American claims that after initially complying, Johns put her old mask back on. As a result, the flight returned to the gate (it had not taken off yet) and she was removed. Johns told WPLG that:
“I think I got taken off the plane because I’m black. My mask said ‘[F**k] 12’ and my shirt said, ‘Black Lives Matter.’”
F**k 12 is apparently an anti-police slogan with 12 being a slang term for police officers. The term has links to the television series Adam-12 and has been used by many rappers over the years. Johns yelled, “Bye Karen” as she left the aircraft. She claims she complied with all onboard instructions.
American Airlines said:
“On Wednesday, July 29, flight 1737 from Charlotte (CLT) to St. Louis (STL) returned to the gate before departure after a customer refused to follow crew member instructions to remove or cover a face mask with offensive language and although the passenger initially complied, they later continued to display the inappropriate language. After arriving at the gate, the passenger was asked to deplane.”
Johns insists racial animus was behind her removal. She chose to drive from Charlotte to St. Louis and flew Southwest back. American Airlines has indicated it will offer her a partial refund for the unused portion of her ticket.
“Offensive” Strikes Again
While Johns would enjoy heightened First Amendment protection with such a message in the public square, the First Amendment does not apply to American Airlines. Instead, American Airlines’s dress code does, which simply states:
Dress appropriately; bare feet or offensive clothing aren’t allowed.
Last September an American Airlines passenger was removed for wearing a “F**k Trump” shirt onboard under the same reasoning.
I’ve wrestled with the issue of where the line should be drawn, but do not think fellow passenger should be forced to close their eyes if they wish to avoid obscenities onboard. I do think American Airlines should better convey what will be deemed offensive. It seems like the F-bomb is a consistent no-no.
I don’t understand why a mask which said, “Defund the police” would not be just as effective as using an obscenity as part of an opaque term that only insiders are aware of. Johns feels passionate about her cause. But exposing others to obscenities in a confined space crosses an unacceptable line and I simply cannot fault American Airlines for insisting that the mask be removed. However, if she did remove the mask when asked and did not put it back on, her anger at AA is appropriate over her removal.
Was American Airlines right to remove this passenger?