BONNEY LAKE, Wash. — A teen who works at the Bonney Lake Lowe’s said he was told by a supervisor that he either had to go buy a new shirt or go home and change after a customer complained his “Black Panther Wakanda Forever” shirt was racist.
“She goes, ‘a customer said your shirt is offensive and racist,’” said Lowe’s employee Kyle Sales, who told KIRO 7 he tried to explain the shirt to the supervisor. “This is from a movie. How is this racist?”
Sales said he was pulled aside by the supervisor last weekend. After being spoken to, Sales decided to go home and put a sports jersey over his Black Panther movie shirt.
“I was very angry. It just did not seem fair in light of all of the things that are happening in our in the world right now,” said Sales. “This isn’t racist. I shouldn’t be punished for a t-shirt from a movie.”
The next day, Sales said he learned from a friend that a woman had shown up to the Lowe’s demanding to know whether the store had punished him for the shirt.
“She came in throwing a fit saying, ‘what happened to that kid – What was his punishment?’” said Sales, who was not wearing one of the company’s signature vests. “You have to earn those.”
The teen, who recently graduated high school, said he started working at Lowe’s several months ago to make money before attending Washington State University in the fall. Sales said what happened at Lowe’s triggered painful memories from high school and his previous job.
“Kids calling you the N-word,” said Sales, recalling his high school experience. “At my last job, my manager actually called me a colored boy.”
Sales’ family, who said they’ve been in contact with Lowe’s corporate office, told KIRO 7 they too were angry when the teen explained what happened.
“That was pure, unadulterated discrimination,” said Kimberly Sales, Kyle’s mother. “Lowe’s owes him more than an apology.”
Lowe’s spokesperson Sebastian Hale released a statement to KIRO 7:
“Mr. Sales should never have been asked to change his shirt, and we have apologized to him directly. We know this is a teachable moment, and we will take action to coach and train the managers at the store to help prevent this from happening again. Diversity and inclusion are important to our culture at Lowe’s, and we remain committed to fostering an environment where all individuals are safe, treated fairly, valued and respected.”
Cox Media Group