WOODBRIDGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Six Flags Great Adventure has issued an apology to a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who was denied entry to the amusement park over a shirt their policy deems “offensive.”
Mario Alejandro, 33, of Woodbridge was wearing a black shirt with a red, white and blue M-16 rifle on it and the words “Keep Calm and Return Fire” when he went to the park with his family on Saturday.
The shirt was a gift from his family that was purchased from The Reconnaissance Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting Recon Marines, WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reported.
A security guard stopped him at the gate and told Alejandro he could not enter the park because the shirt was “offensive.”
Alejandro told NJ.com he tried to explain that it was a military shirt and that he is a veteran, but the father of three said the guard told him, “I don’t care.”
“Anybody seeing this shirt is going to see it’s associated with military,” Alejandro told 1010 WINS’ Gary Baumgarten. “Any Marine Corps infantryman knows and understands when you are under pressure, under fire, it is your duty to realize what’s going on whether chaos is around you and return your fire and still do your job.”
Alejandro was given the option of removing the shirt or buying a new one, NJ.com reported. He refused, was told to leave and complied.
“What offended me the most, other than a guy saying that my shirt was offensive, was the fact that he said he didn’t care. I earned the right to wear this shirt,” Alejandro said, adding that park employees could’ve offered him another shirt from the gift shop. “Accommodate me; say, ‘Hey sir, you know what, I appreciate you being a veteran, let me get you a shirt. Let me do something.'”
Great Adventure issued a statement apologizing for the treatment of Alejandro, but stands by its policy:
“We do not allow guests to wear t-shirts with images of assault rifles in our parks. We apologize for any inconvenience we caused this guest, however we stand by our policy, which does not permit clothing with vulgar, offensive or violent language or images. Our goal is to maintain a fun, safe and family-friendly environment.
“If a guest is wearing such attire, we ask them to remove and replace it with another item of clothing; and if they do not have one, they are able to purchase a replacement item at a gift shop.
“Six Flags is extremely proud of our longstanding relationship with the U.S. military. We work closely with them throughout the season to offer special discounts and events that honor our service men and women and their families, including a recent July 4th tribute, and an upcoming ‘Salute the Troops’ event over the Labor Day weekend. In addition, active members of the Army, Navy and Air Force helped open our new thrill ride this summer.”
CBS 2’s Tony Aiello asked several local residents if they agreed with the treatment of Alejandro.
“I don’t see nothing wrong with that T-shirt,” one man said.
“He should be able to wear what he wants — freedom of speech,” a woman added.
“I’m against guns but I think they owe him an apology,” another person said.
Alejandro was not the first theme park guest in a clothing controversy, Aiello reported.
* A Florida park told a man he couldn’t wear a police T-shirt, because he wasn’t a cop
* A California park kicked out a woman over her “Tinkerbell” costume
* A park in Canada booted a guy for sporting a Bob Marley marijuana logo
Alejandro said he accepted Great Adventure’s apology.
“Thank you Six Flags for making that apology, I greatly appreciate that,” Alejandro said.
David Daniel, president of The Reconnaissance Foundation, said the shirt is a tribute to Marines like Alejandro, and will continue selling it.
“We were very sad to learn that one of our vets was denied access to the theme park,” Daniel told Putney. “We would like to see a statement in regards to how they find this vulgar and offensive. We as a foundation, we don’t.”
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