The Food Lion grocery store chain based in the state of North Carolina made a bold statement that went viral last week when an employee quit after being told that they could not wear American flag-themed masks while working at the store.
Employee Gary Dean, a 69-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran wore his American flag-printed mask for his shift at the Food Lion in Havelock, NC. Dean said that the manager of the store told him that there was a complaint that someone found the mask offensive and told Dean that he could no longer wear the mask to work.
“As a veteran, my dad being a World War II hero, my best friend killed in Vietnam, out of respect for them, I can’t just say, ‘No, I’ll take my flag and put it in my pocket,” Dean said.
Dean did the only thing his heart told him to – he quit.
“I had to quit, out of principle,” he said.
But Americans all across the nation were not happy about that at all and the story began to go viral on the internet.
In a statement, Food Lion said it has “great respect for the American flag,” but also has blanket policies banning writing, insignia, and symbols “to ensure a consistent and professional representation of our associates inside of our stores.”
Since the news of Dean has gone viral, the grocery chain has now changed its stance after the backlash they received. Food Lion says that it will now permit its employees to wear American flag-themed face masks while working at all of its stores.
“We listened to our associates and customers about our uniform policy,” the company said in a statement. “We require that associates wear masks without writing, insignia, or symbols. We will allow associates to wear masks with the American flag that meet this standard.”
According to WCTI-TV, the move appears to be in response to the employee and supporters of Dean, who have demanded that such masks be allowed after the company initially prohibited them.
Dean said that Food Lion officials have offered him his old position at the Havelock grocery store, but he is not sure yet if he will return to work at the store.
In addition, Dean apologized via a social media post on Facebook for the commotion this has caused. He apologized to anyone he may have offended, but ultimately, he still proudly defended his choice.
“I still believe I did the right thing by prioritizing the flag over the paycheck and will always take a stand against those who try to burn, stomp, or otherwise deface, [mar], or show intentional disrespect for our flag,” Dean wrote of his social media account.
Featured Image by Mike Kalasnik