A Nashville, Tenn., hat store is facing backlash after announcing on social media that it was selling yellow patches similar to the Star of David with the words “NOT VACCINATED,” sparking widespread condemnation, a protest and severed business ties.
Iconic hat company Stetson announced Saturday it will stop selling its merchandise at HatWRKS, the company at the center of the controversy. Goorin Bros., another prominent hat company, also announced that its distribution with HatWRKS would end immediately.
“Stetson condemns antisemitism and discrimination of any kind,” the company said in a statement. “As a result of the offensive content and opinions shared by HatWRKS in Nashville, Stetson and our distribution partners will cease the sale of all Stetson products.”
The incident, which came after a Republican congresswoman compared the House’s mask rules to the Nazis’ oppression of Jews, is the latest flare-up over vaccines in the United States and follows a recent spate of anti-Jewish attacks connected to the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The Instagram post advertising the badges has since been deleted by the company, but not after many people, including descendants of Holocaust victims, weighed in on the matter.
Author Min Jin Lee called the badges “immoral & hurtful.”
“It is an anti-Semitic gesture in a time of rising anti-Semitism,” she wrote on Twitter. “Our *chronic* ignorance of history, science & law allows Americans to continuously harm ourselves & others.”
Gigi Gaskins, who is listed as HatWRKS’s owner in public records, apologized Saturday on Instagram for the merchandise resembling the badges the Nazis forced Jews to wear during the Holocaust.
“In NO WAY did i intend to trivialize the Star of David or disrespect what happened to millions of people,” she said. “My hope was to share my genuine concern & fear, and to do all that i can to make sure that nothing like that ever happens again.”
Previously, Gaskins had said people should be “outraged by tyranny” in the world and blamed her detractors for not understanding what is happening around them. In another post, she alluded to concerns about coronavirus restrictions and stated that she was a “target of the mob.”
Protesters gathered outside the store Saturday with a large sign that read “No Nazis in Nashville.” Others sang that they didn’t want the hats or the hate.
“To me, it’s willful ignorance,” Roger Abramson, an attorney, told WSMV. “The information is out there. People are willfully ignoring facts, information and history because it doesn’t fit what they want to believe or it doesn’t fit some narrative they have.”
The company’s Instagram feed shows several posts expressing hostility and misinformation on vaccination, comparing wearing masks to government suppression of citizens. More than a dozen posts were marked by Instagram as false since November.
The controversy over the Star of David patches comes after recent comments from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who in a podcast compared Democrats requiring masks to be worn on the House floor to the treatment of Jews during the Holocaust.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and other Republicans condemned Greene for the comparison.
“Marjorie is wrong, and her intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust with wearing masks is appalling,” he said in a statement. “The Holocaust is the greatest atrocity committed in history. The fact that this needs to be stated today is deeply troubling.”