"Black Olives Matter" T-Shirts Spark Controversy

"No justice, no pizza."

By Eric Shorey

Everyone loves a stupid pun here and there. But hey, maybe people shouldn't be making light of the increasingly disturbing racial tensions in America at a time when our country feels more divided than ever?

That thought surely never occurred to Paisano’s, an Italian restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The local eatery began using the phrase "BLACK OLIVES MATTER" on signage back in July, which generated headline-grabbing outrage.

“We use our reader board to promote our specials,” said owner Rick Camuglia. “We thought it was a cute, play on words to promote our special Ahi tuna tonight ... We didn’t think anybody would be offended by that. It was not our intent to offend anybody.”

The sign even prompted a response from the local black community leaders: "Unjustified killing of innocent Black men is nothing to joke about. Whether it was intentional or not, it sent the wrong message to many,” Harold Bailey, the president of the Albuquerque NAACP, said in a statement. “I’m sure they would feel the same way if someone had an offensive marketing idea that placed Hispanics, Italians or any other ethnic group in a controversial concept."

As both supportive and critical comments rolled in from the internet, the restaurant offered this obtuse response on Facebook:

Now, Paisano's is doubling down on the outrage. They're selling hats and t-shirts with the disrespectful slogan proudly emblazoned on them:

“It’s just something to do that’s kind of fun now,” Camuglia said. “It’s a little bit different than selling pasta ... We've gotten calls from Australia, Spain, France, you name it. It's gone so viral.”

Unsurprisingly, the turn of phrase has spawned several hashtags, with many taking the corny joke to its unfunny limits:

Meanwhile, others have proposed a boycott on the restaurant over the cheeky turn of phrase. "Many people are very much against any kind of usage of that term or playing on that term or punning on that term, because people’s lives are at stake,” Finnie Coleman, a University of New Mexico professor who teaches a course on Black Lives Matter, told KOAT.


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