Taco Bell said Thursday that it apologized to a man who was fired from one of its Ohio franchises after refusing to take off a mask featuring Black Lives Matter symbols, and that the fast-food chain is “working to clarify our mask policy so this doesn’t happen again.”
The fast-food firm said in a tweet on Thursday that it was “deeply upset” by the incident, adding that, “We believe the Black Lives Matter movement is a human rights issue and not a political one.”
In a viral video that was streamed live on Facebook on June 8, the employee, Denzel Skinner, said he was losing his job at a Taco Bell location on Belmont Ave. in Youngstown, Ohio, because he was wearing a mask with the Black Lives Matter slogan, with its emblem, a black fist, emblazoned on it.
“This is crazy,” Skinner says in the video, “All because I got a Black Lives Matter mask on, I’m losing my job.” He insisted he was informed that, for safety reasons, “we can wear any type of masks.”
An unidentified woman presumed to be a manager is heard in the video telling Skinner that he is incorrect about employees being able to wear any type of mask, adding that masks must be plain.
“You can’t bring politics into the building,” the woman added, explaining that it’s company policy that items worn by employees may not have any symbols on them.
Skinner rejected the claim that wearing the mask was about politics.
“Bro, I’m not bringing politics in, this is what I’m standing for,” Skinner said. “Like how is this considered politics?”
“How is it not?” the woman responded, asking him to consider his reaction to someone wearing a mask with the word “white” on it.
According to the “What We Believe” section of the Black Lives Matter website, the organizers call the movement a “political home,” while listing the removal of politicians among its accomplishments.
“Organizers who call this network home have ousted anti-Black politicians, won critical legislation to benefit Black lives, and changed the terms of the debate on Blackness around the world,” it states.
In an interview shared on social media, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors said “we actually do have an ideological frame,” adding that she and others at the organizer level are “trained Marxists.”
Former FBI Counterterrorism Director Terry Turchie told Sky News Australia that the Black Lives Matter “plan and charter” is very similar to that of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s, which he described as a “Marxist-Maoist-Leninist organization,” whose goal was the “total transformation—very important two words there—the total transformation of the United States government and America.”
Skinner told WBKN First News that he was a shift leader at the Youngstown Taco Bell for eight years and that when a manager asked him to take off his mask, he refused and walked out. He told the outlet that the manager told him that if he walked out, he would be fired.
“Denzel Skinner should never have been put in this position,” Taco Bell said in the tweet, in which the company added, “We have been in conversations with Denzel and our franchisees to make sure our actions represent our words.”
In a statement to USA TODAY, Taco Bell said a senior company official spoke to Skinner to “apologize and discuss the situation,” adding, “We take this very seriously; we have been working closely with our franchisee that operates this location to address the issue.”
“While our policies at restaurants do not prohibit Team Members from wearing Black Lives Matter masks, we are working to clarify our mask policy so this doesn’t happen again,” the company stated, according to USA TODAY.