In the midst of national outrage over the fatal shootings of two black men by police officers, an Italian restaurant in New Mexico is now the site of internet ire after a promotional billboard played off the Black Lives Matter slogan.
The board, which read "Black Olives Matter, Try Our Tapenade" was meant to advertise the Paisano's weekly specials, according to The Washington Post. Owner Rick Camuglia posted a photo of the marquee on Facebook, hoping to get a laugh.
"We put up what we thought was a cute play on words, which we do commonly here at the restaurant," he told KOB. "We were trying to promote our pan-seared Ahi tuna with a black olive tapenade relish."
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The post quickly went viral and received intense internet backlash. People called the joke "tacky," "offensive," and trivializing of the Black Lives Matter movement.
One post read, according to The Washington Post:
As a woman of color I find your posting offensive and in very bad taste. You simply wish to rub salt in an ugly festering wound which evil minded people refuse to allow to heal. The civilized world No longer has any tolerance for your hateful public display of what passes to you as humor. Young men and women are dying have a shred of humanity.
The restaurant has since removed the post from social media and taken down the marquee. Some Facebook users also report that their comments against the billboard have been removed from the restaurant's page.
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"We didn’t think anybody would be offended by that," Camuglia said to KRQE. "It was not our intent to offend anybody. I think if that offends some people, a statement about black olives, that somebody needs to reevaluate their politically correct meter."
Some users, however, came to Camulgia's defense. "As a chef I understand that you weren’t trying to be [offensive]," someone wrote according to The Washington Post. "In our industry [humor] is the only thing that takes the stress away from our job. It’s unfortunate [that] only people who work in the trade will understand."
In a statement released on its Facebook page, the restaurant thanked customers for their support and reported that their tapenade special has been selling especially well. "I can’t count the number of customer’s orders who’ve included adding Black Olives to every dish ordered," the statement read. "... we almost ran out [of Black Olives] and ordered more."
Many found the sign especially insensitive given the fatal police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Both sparked national outrage and protest, including one event in Dallas in which five officers were killed and seven others injured.
Camulgia, however, has no regrets about his sign. “I think it shows an interesting state of affairs of where our country is that people ... can be offended by a statement about a vegetable,” he added to KOB. “Black olives matter, and it does matter in our tapenade.”