Anthony Edmonson was looking forward to seeing the dolphin exhibit at the Indianapolis Zoo when an employee stopped him because of his hoodie.
The black sweatshirt featured a sexual innuendo, reading, "Just the tip, I promise," and had an image of a bullet featured on it.
"I never found anyone who took offense to that hoodie. I wear that hoodie on a daily basis. One hundred percent of the time, most people think it's a hilarious joke. Somebody probably didn't understand that it was a picture of a bullet. That, or they're very anti-gun," Edmonson said.
The 31-year-old Brownsburg resident stated that he had been walking around the zoo for around two hours with friends and family before he was stopped. According to the employee, another visitor at the zoo had complained about the hoodie. Edmonson was given some options: To cover up the sexual innuendo, take it off or turn the hoodie inside out.
He said, "They said they got a complaint about my shirt and asked me to remove it and I refused. Because it was my First Amendment right for freedom of speech."
Indianapolis Zoo spokeswoman Judy Palermo stated that as a private business, the zoo had the right to ask Edmonson to vacate the premises. An expert on First Amendment issues agreed with the zoo’s assertion.
"We are a private nongovernmental organization," Palermo said. "We reserve the right to not allow sexual vulgarity or other offensive language or graphics on clothing, which is inappropriate in a family-friendly setting."
The zoo's has a dress code posted at its front gate, its website and on the zoo map.
Palermo added, "Offensive language or graphics on clothing are not appropriate at a family gathering spot like the zoo. This guest was kindly given an opportunity to stay in the Zoo as long as he covered up the wording on his sweatshirt or removed the clothing or turned it inside out. He chose not to."
When Edmonson refused to remove the hoodie, he was asked to leave, and was escorted off the premises by police officers who had been hired for extra security during the zoo’s ZooBoo event.
Edmonson then asked a friend to take a photo of him in the hoodie at the zoo entrance. He later posted the photo on Facebook, and added a profanity-filled caption criticizing the zoo and the complainant.
The post quickly went viral, accruing over 1,000 comments and 1,100 shares. It was shared on a number of Reddit threads as well.
"I don't understand none of that. I posted it because I was just mad and venting. I can't believe I was asked to actually leave the zoo," Edmonson said.
The post received overwhelmingly negative comments.
He said, "It was so negative. A lot of people seemed to not like it. People were just so sheltered and they don't understand it. I gave up trying to understand people. Other than that, I really don't care. It's not affecting my life any. I never really cared what people thought about it in the first place."
He concluded: "I was just shocked that it went as far as it did. I never thought it was going get this kind of attention."