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Should United Have Done Something About This Violent T-Shirt?

Should United Have Done Something About This Violent T-Shirt?
Jackie Reddy

A T-shirt worn by a United Airlines passenger on a recent flight was perceived as a threat by another, but the carrier has reportedly taken no action over the incident, which occurred on a Boston-bound flight from L.A. Despite the concern raised, United has not offered comment about the incident.

A t-shirt worn by one passenger on a recent United Airlines flight was perceived to be “threatening” by another traveler, but as Forbes reports, the airline took no action over the incident. The item of clothing was spotted on Boston-bound United Airlines Flight 824 from Los Angeles on October 11th, and according to the outlet, the text on the shirt read, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some Assembly Required.”

The passenger who saw the item of clothing raised their concern to a member of crew, who then spoke to the flight’s captain. According to the outlet, the traveler who spoke out over the slogan on the t-shirt has asked that his name not be made public.

However, in a series of tweets, Jessica Sidman, food editor at Washingtonian Magazine, has said that it was her brother who made the complaint.

The perceived element of threat, she said, had made her brother speak out about his concern. He was then taken off of the plane and spoke to an operations supervisor with the airline.

Sidman explained that her brother was offered a seat on another flight, but the airline didn’t say anything to the guy with the shirt.”

It is reported that Sidman’s brother opted to take the flight.

United has not offered comment to the outlet about the incident.

[Featured Image: Twitter/jsidman]

View Comments (25)


  1. AADFW

    October 15, 2019 at 9:34 pm

    This is a manipulated rehashing of a story from 2016 about the same shameful shirt at a Trump rally.

    Is the shirt disgusting and deeply offensive? Absolutely.

    Is it actually a direct threat to the airplane or anyone on it? Obviously not.

    You have a right to your opinion. You have the right to condemn bad behavior. But you do NOT have the right not to be offended.

    Better to ignore idiots like this than to stoop down to their level.

  2. JakeRobertson212

    October 16, 2019 at 2:52 am

    Sit down snowflake and enjoy the flight. I find it pathetic he was upset enough to complain and take it all the way up to an operations supervisor, but when they offered him a seat on another flight he instead opted to take the original flight.

    United did the right thing here. While a little crass, there was nothing that on the guys t-shirt that warranted getting the boot.

  3. jrm68

    October 16, 2019 at 4:33 am

    That isn’t a threat. People love to get offended over anything now.

  4. jctech

    October 16, 2019 at 4:39 am

    Just because one person finds something offensive, doesn’t mean that that “thing” is offensive to anyone else, or that something must be done.

  5. Garryl549

    October 16, 2019 at 4:53 am

    You don’t like what a t-shirt says, don’t read it, it’s called freedom of speech. If you are afraid of a t-shirt, you need to stay in your safe space, grow up!

  6. vargha

    October 16, 2019 at 5:23 am

    People are too easily “offended”. The shirt was mild. If it had my profession on it and said, “Rope. Tree. Sales Trainer. Some Assembly Required”, I would have chuckled.

  7. rustyfarmer

    October 16, 2019 at 5:40 am

    So the concern of a perceived “threat” was not enough to inconvenience them. Must not have been that big of a threat.

  8. LHR_ATL

    October 16, 2019 at 6:02 am

    United absolutely should have removed the t-shirt wearing nut from the plane. Passengers have been denied boarding or removed for much less.

  9. danbrew

    October 16, 2019 at 7:10 am

    Interesting that journalists pretty much say whatever they want and inflame the passions of the country/world on whatever topic of the day comes up, yet start screaming about censorship when their feelings get hurt.

    Whether you believe “fake news” or not, whether you are left or right, pink or purple, the media sure has changed in my lifetime. The one thing that is certain is that you can always find somebody who will be offended by your position.

    I’d wager that many people would agree with the sentiment on the shirt. I know I do.

  10. cairns

    October 16, 2019 at 8:10 am

    “received element of threat”?

    What a quivering snowflake.

  11. rthib

    October 16, 2019 at 8:38 am

    Despite the concern raised, United has not offered comment about the incident.
    In a follow up United is expected to say “If we responded to every snowflake who was triggered by something we wouldn’t have time to run our airline. We are however concerned that a food editor considers herself a journalist.”

  12. snidely

    October 16, 2019 at 8:47 am

    Classless people have now been flying for 3 decades+. Airlines allow people to fly virtually barefoot. (Couldn’t that be hazard in an evacuation?)

  13. Occupationalhazard

    October 16, 2019 at 9:12 am

    Unless the amenity kit contains a rope and a tree, the t-shirt itself is merely in bad taste and conveys a message about the wearer’s dim view of the 4th estate. Is it, in an of itself a credible threat of violence? No. We have simply reached the point at a country where the most fragile and emotionally immature among us have learned that all that they need say is “I iz escared and offended!” to get what they want.

    The complaining passenger was re-accommodated (or at least given that option) but that’s now what he wanted; what he wanted was someone else to be inconvenienced because of his own particular sensitivities.

  14. unregistered1

    October 16, 2019 at 11:03 am

    So, if I have this right ripped jeans, leggings, clothing with profanity, or general lack of clothing all result or have resulted in someone being removed from a flight. But, a shirt declaring violent desires is deemed OK. What a jacked up society we live in where violence is preferred to sexual expression.

  15. cloudwalker_3

    October 16, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    As it happens, I’m a journalist, specifically, I’m a photojournalist based in the UK. I also travel on planes from time to time. So here are my thoughts, for what it’s worth.

    Other commentators have mentioned that, while the T-shirt is deeply offensive to some people, as individuals, people do have a right to wear (pretty much) what they like, irrespective of whether it offends other people, based on the freedom of expression, because there is no intrinsic right, not to be offended.

    Broadly speaking, I would agree with this as a starting point.

    One person wrote “is it actually a direct threat to the aeroplane or anyone on it? Obviously not”.

    I partially agree with this although I think it is worth noting that the T-shirt does contain an implied threat of death to journalists.

    If you were a journalist on this plane, and someone wearing this shirt sat next to you, would you feel vulnerable? Unsafe? Threatened? I know I would. Would you want them not to sit next to you? Probably.

    So the answer to the question of whether or not the guy should have been thrown off the plane is not entirely straightforward.

    If you do really want to be a jerk and wear something that’s deeply offensive, (and this guy must have known that he was doing this) you have a right to do so.

    Other people, however, also have a right to complain about this behaviour in the same way, that people who behave in other offensive ways complained about (hate speech, rudeness, etc).

    Should the organisation who you are dealing with decide that your presence, based on the level of offence you are creating, is not conducive to a pleasant atmosphere in their establishment, whether this is a bar, a hotel, a restaurant, or indeed a plane, then they have an absolute right to ask you leave.

    If you don’t like this, well, tough. You chose to wear the T-shirt, and to quote a well-used phrase ‘if you can’t do the time, then don’t do the crime’.

    As an aside from this I also want to make a point about journalism, generally, because on some levels, I find this shirt really, really scary.

    As a journalist, and as a member of the UK National Union of Journalists, I am bound by a code of conduct and by ethics (

    Simplified: I don’t tell lies, I act in a way that is honest and impartial, and I don’t generate material likely to lead to hatred or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age, gender, race, colour, creed, legal status, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation.

    I can’t speak for all journalists, and there is good and bad wherever you go but the river of utter hatred and aggression that is spewed out by Trump (a proven bully, narcissistic, egotist who has lied, cheated, abused women and mocked disabled people) and his supporters towards people, most of whom, who are simply trying to objectively report factual events as they happen, is pretty horrific.

    Sooner or later someone will start killing journalists in the US and in this respect, the T-shirt represents a strand of deeply offensive opinion that condones this, and this is why he was thrown off the plane and this is why, despite my belief in the freedom of expression, I kinda think, well, what did you expect?

    Since the year 2000, 1025 journalists, or roughly one every week, have been killed simply for doing their job ( Some were murdered, some were tortured, all of them are now dead.

    Imagine for a moment that your partner, your wife, your husband, your brother, your sister, your son, your daughter … your child, is one of these people. Then a guy sits next to you on the plane where you are sitting.

    How comfortable would you feel?

  16. glob99

    October 16, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    Change one word from Journalist to President. Would he then be allowed on the flight?

  17. jchunter

    October 16, 2019 at 9:21 pm

    I don’t know what number danbrew would consider equals “many” but chalk me up in the category “does not agree with the sentiment on the shirt”.

    While I concur the person over-reacted to the message, I wonder if the captain would have had the same reaction if the shirt replaced “journalist” with “United pilot” or (if there were a sky marshal aboard) with “US President”?

  18. mikem004

    October 17, 2019 at 1:57 am

    So someone delayed the flight departure because he didn’t like someone’s T-shirt? Get a life.
    I’m not a Metallica fan, but I don’t mind sitting next to someone wearing the T-shirt. So long as they keep the noise down.

  19. Occupationalhazard

    October 17, 2019 at 8:18 am

    @glob99 or “Lawyers”. If it was a “‘Let’s kill all the lawyers!’ – Wm Shakespeare” shirt would anyone care? Or would a lawyer complaining about it be ridiculed? (Full Disclosure: I am a lawyer and I don’t care if anyone wears such a shirt. It’s a free country.) But since it’s journalists, the left is all butthurt about it.

    Has there been a *single* documented instance of someone wearing such a shirt *actually* hanging a journalist? Without resorting to The Google, I’m going to suggest “not likely”.

    @cloudwalker_3 mentions that UA could have bounced him for wearing the shirt; they could also have re-accommodated the complaining passenger – who is really simply attempting to exert ‘social control’ over the opinions of others. Indeed, when someone claims ‘offense’ of such things what one is really saying is “I lack the requisite maturity to control my emotions and expect others to do it for me.” In this case, UA’s decision was apparently: “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the WHINE.”

    I doubt the guy gave the message on his shirt much thought after he put it on. I have a t-shirt which reads “I don’ know” in Russian. It’s not uncommon for me to be stopped when I am wearing it out by someone either speaking Russian to me or asking me if I speak Russian. It’s always a bit of a surprise, because I’m not thinking about what’s on my tshirt from moment to moment.

  20. sfoeuroflyer

    October 17, 2019 at 9:03 am

    I guess in the world of liberal snowflakes it is ok to wear a shirt with an image of Che. Doesn’t matter that he was a ruthless murder. So it seems that Outrage Industrial Complex is very selective about when to be aggrieved. I had to sit next to Dan Rather on a plane. I was triggered. Should I have insisted that he be off boarded? Basically we have to get over these phony outrages. People have different opinions. Nobody has the right to shut down another opinion. And to make it clear, words are not violence. In short if you see a shirt or a hat you disagree with, suck it up and live with it. It would have been outrageous if the airline had kicked off this passenger. Frankly, they should have offered nothing to this “outraged” soul. Get on the plane or lump it. Buy another ticket.

  21. Gizzabreak

    October 17, 2019 at 11:13 am

    There’s a generally accepted axiom that if the firing pin is removed from a firearm it is no longer a lethal threat. A similar level of common sense in this case would be to ensure that no large trees had been brought on board. There, threat neutered (poor taste remains).

  22. stonhinged

    October 17, 2019 at 5:41 pm

    It’s not a threat. It’s a statement meant to convey dislike. Now, I don’t know why this guy doesn’t like journalists but his reasons are none of my business. It’s one flight, not a long term relationship.

  23. DLFan2

    October 19, 2019 at 10:08 am

    I sincerely doubt that the complainer felt threatened. Rather he an opportunity to inconvenience someone he perceived to be a Trump supporter. He failed. And he also validated the sentiment expressed on the shirt.

  24. SJWarrior

    October 21, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    “Change one word from Journalist to President. Would he then be allowed on the flight?“

    Unless it was directed at the last embarrassment we had for the previous 8 years.

  25. pilsn3r

    October 22, 2019 at 8:12 am

    How did you treat Princess Diana? How are you treating Megan Markle? How did the UK code of ethics work for them? What repercussions have they been subject to after killing Diana? How about currently with how they are treaking Markle? None you say? Thought so. You can keep your Piers Morgan and “killer” tabloid journalism on your side of the pond, snowflake.

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