Entitled White Man Denied First Amendment Right to Wear Shirt on Plane

Yesterday, we learned that the First Amendment does not guarantee one the right to play baseball. Today we have more devastating news: The same amendment that doesn't guarantee you to have your opinions go uncriticized does not allow a dude to wear a vulgar shirt on a plane just because he might know how to say "uh, free speech" in the snottiest tone possible.


Hip New Yorker Daniel Podolsky was stranded in a St. Louis airport when the crew of his Southwest flight took objection to his promotional Broad City t-shirt. The shirt, handed to Podolsky at SXSW, has the word "FUCKING" printed prominently on its center. While no one had any problem with it on the first leg of Podolsky's trip (Dallas to Chicago; people in Dallas are cool, man), some difficulties arose when his plane had to stop in St. Louis due to weather conditions in "The Windy City."

Fox 2 has a report of what happened when Podolsky got off the plane to use the bathroom and was spotted by a gate agent at the prudish Lambert airport:

"It's only when I got back on the plane when it was gonna take off, ya know, you have this much space, you're gonna take your jacket off because it's hot," he explained. "I took my jacket off, so he sent someone to remove me from the flight."

We asked him if he was given an opportunity to remedy the situation.

"Did they give you any opportunity to put your jacket back on, to change the shirt, to put it inside out?" we asked. Podolsky's response: "It just happened so fast. Within thirty seconds the flight was gone. I mean I would have gladly done so."

Except here's the best part: Podolsky is either a pathological liar or so incredibly entitled about his knowledge of "free speech" that he doesn't even notice that the tape he handed FOX 2 has a completely different story than the tale of woe he'd just told. In fact, instead of the Southwest agents coming off as cruel assholes intent on ruining a young man's day, it's Podolsky that comes across as an insufferable douche waffle.

(Worker) "Can you change the shirt?"

(Podolsky) "Nope."

(Worker) "Can you put the jacket on and leave it on through the flight?"

(Podolsky) (Inaudible)

(Worker) "Can you put the shirt on inside out?"

(Podolsky) "Nope."

(Worker) "Is there anything you can do not to display the shirt because at this point we can't allow you to go."

(Podolsky) "I have freedom of speech."

And these aren't polite "nopes." They're righteously indignant refusals. Podolsky asked for a poll of the travelers onboard the flight (which probably annoyed everyone rather than rallied the troops for his cause) but was kicked off after being told that the agreement that he signed when buying his ticket allowed the airline to remove passengers at their discretion.

Podolsky believes he was wronged, and that Southwest taking him off the plane was not prioritizing the needs of the other passengers, and that questioning his t-shirt wasn't really the airline's call to make (despite the agreement he signed). He made it to Chicago after changing his shirt to board another flight.

FOX 2 points out that this story brings up the classic "freedom of speech" debate, but it appears that what's really going on isn't actually a freedom of speech issue but a misunderstanding of airline terms and conditions. The First Amendment protects your right to say and wear whatever you want; it doesn't protect the right for either of those things to go uncriticized or unpunished by entities other than the government.



I am kind of surprised at the responses to this article. What I want to say is "Fuck Southwest for trying to be a moral compass of any kind. I don't need a gate agent monitoring my clothing choices for appropriateness". But what I am hoping is that someone will come in and rationally explain to me why it was ok for them to ask this person to take off their shirt. It's not high school. There is not a dress code. If it were a woman in a low cut top who was denied flight for indecent clothing we would all be incensed.