A college student who was kicked off of a Southwest Airlines flight in St. Louis Monday for wearing a profanity-laced T-shirt has raised questions about the First Amendment right to free speech versus a company’s control over its property.
Daniel Podolsky was on his way from Dallas to Chicago when the flight was diverted to St. Louis due to bad weather.
Podolsky existed the plane to use the airport men’s room, and it was in the terminal where his shirt that stated “Broad F**king City,” became an issue.
Podolsky got the Comedy Central shirt at the South By Southwest festival that he just attended in Austin. But by the time he reached St. Louis, Podolsky didn’t seem to realize – he wasn’t in Austin anymore.
A gate agent spotted Podolsky and told him that he needed to do something about his shirt before getting back on the plane.
Podolsky told Fox 2 Now that he would have complied with the agent, but wasn’t given the opportunity before the plane left him stranded.
Remarkably, Podolsky himself provided video of the interaction that tells a different story than the one he told reporters.
“Can you change the shirt?” the agent asked.
“Nope,” Podolsky said.
The video then showed the agent suggesting Podolsky put his jacket on, or turn the shirt inside out.
“Nope,” a defiant Podolsky said.
“Is there anything you can do to not display the shirt because at this point we can’t allow you to go.”
“I have freedom of speech,” Podolsky said.
“I can show you in our contract of carriage that you can’t wear any shirt that says offensive,’ the agent responds.
While Podolsky does enjoy constitutional protection of free speech, nowhere in the Constitution does it say anything about a right to a plane ride against an airline’s company policy.
So, the plane left the obstinate Podolsky in St. Louis.
“There are more than a hundred people on the plane trying to get to Chicago and the most important thing is my shirt? How does that work?” he asked Fox 2 Now.
“Is it really in the airline’s position to make that call?”
Podolsky was allowed onto a later flight to New York, his final destination – after he changed his shirt.
But what say you? Was the airline within its right to leave Podolsky? Did the gate agent make the right call?
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