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Taco Bell Is Working to Clarify Its Mask Policy After an Employee Was Fired for Wearing a Black Lives Matter Mask

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  • A Taco Bell employee live-streamed an argument with his boss, who fired him for refusing to take off his Black Lives Matter face mask last Monday, saying he could not bring “politics” into the building under company policy. 
  • Taco Bell told news outlets last week that it was disappointed to hear about the incident and was considering revising uniform requirements to address recent concerns. 
  • However, the company has been silent on social media and after a shorter version of the stream viral, #RIPTaco Bell and #TacoBellIsOverParty began trending on Twitter. 
  • Taco Bell then told media outlets Thursday that it apologized to the former employee and is working to clarify its mask policy so this doesn’t happen again.

The Viral Video

#RIPTacoBell and #TacoBellIsOverParty were trending on Twitter early Thursday after a video went viral of an employee being fired for wearing a Black Lives Matter face mask.

That now-former employee is a man in Ohio by the name of Denzel Skinner, who live-streamed the argument with his manager on Facebook last Monday. Skinner’s live-stream is over 30 minutes long, but a shorter edit that’s just under a minute has been shared across Twitter. 

Skinner also later spoke to local news station WKBN, where he explained the lead up to his stream. He told the station that he wore the mask because the surgical ones provided to employees were inadequate in the hot restaurant. He said the store’s air conditioning system recently broke, making it harder to breathe with the surgical masks, so he switched to his more comfortable Black Lives Matter mask.

But when his manager spotted it and told him to take it off, he refused and walked out. He said he was then told that if he walked out of the restaurant, he would lose his job, and he did. That’s when the now-viral video begins. 

“You just fired me because I got a Black Lives Matter on,” he says as the edited video begins. “You just told me I had to go home because I have a Black…” 

“You told me you weren’t going to take it off,” his boss interjects off camera. 

Skinner continues: “I’m not. I’m not. Because I’m standing up for what’s right. I’m not taking it off.”

Skinner explains that someone named Tammy, presumably another higher-ranking colleague, said employees could wear whatever mask they wanted. 

“No she did not. She said it had to be plain. You can’t bring politics into the building,” the manager responds. 

He replies, “Bro, I’m not bringing politics in, this is what I’m standing for. Like how is this considered politics?” 

“How is it not Denzel?” she replies. He then reaffirms that he will not remove his mask and she says, “Ok, well then there’s nothing I can do for you. I’m just doing my job.”

She later tells him, “You don’t get it.” 

“You don’t either,” he responds. 

When she says that she does, Skinner explains that if she did, then his mask wouldn’t be a problem. “It’s not that it’s a problem with me, Denzel. It’s a company thing.”

She later says, “Would you let somebody wear something that said something about white people on it?”

“Bro, if that’s what they stand for, yes,” he responds. 

The shorter video ends with the woman stating: “I’m not against what you stand for either, but I have to do what the company states.”

In the longer version, Skinner dives off and goes on to talk about his disbelief over what happened, asking people to share the video. 

Skinner Continues to Speak Out 

Skinner talked about the incident a little more on Facebook, saying he had worked for the company for eight years and found the reason for his firing “ridiculous.”

He later shared screenshots of text messages he received about the store’s mask policies, which do not prohibit him from wearing a Black Lives Matter mask. 

According to the first screenshot, masks were not required but if worn, they had to be cleaned daily and cover the mouth and nose area. It also included some instructions for removing the masks, not wearing them under your chin, or touching them throughout the day. 

The second screenshot said masks now had to be worn at all times and worn correctly, but again had no information about certain designs or messages being prohibited. 

It’s also worth noting that Taco Bell’s employee handbook does not appear to make any reference to wearing “political” items.

When speaking to reporters, Skinner has continued to stress that Taco Bell’s policy does not prohibit him from wearing the mask, adding, “If the governor and governments are requiring us to wear masks, we should be able to wear any type of mask that you want.”

“And not only that, I still want everyone to believe that we still need justice for what is happening in this world and people need to be held accountable for whatever mistakes that they make. Black lives are going to always matter. Not just when some people want it to matter. It will always matter.”

Taco Bell Responds 

Taco Bell apparently caught wind of the incident and emailed a statement to some local news outlets last week. 

“We are disappointed to learn what took place in Youngstown. We are working with our franchisee that operates this location to understand what happened,” the company said. 

“We are committed to fighting racial injustice and hosting open forums to give restaurant teams an opportunity to discuss racism in America. Our priority is to be an inclusive brand while keeping team members and customers safe.”

The statement also said that because of supply shortages, employees are allowed to bring their own face coverings, however, it said, “As this is a fluid situation, we’re in the process of considering the need to revise mask and uniform requirements to address recent concerns.”

Still, Skinner said that he would not ask for his job back or return if asked. On Friday, he and about 30 people peacefully marched to the Taco Bell to protest his firing. 

Internet Gets Angry 

Even though all of this unfolded last week, it seems to have really started picking up attention online late last night and early this morning. That’s because people like YouTuber Elijah Daniel have been sharing the short video on Twitter. 

Daniel, as you might know, has been very vocal about protests and efforts that support BLM over the last few weeks. And he helped bring a new wave of attention to the video, along with Denzel’s Facebook posts and screenshots.

Even though Taco Bell made it’s statement to some local media outlets, it’s been silent on social media.

The company’s last post is from June 2 and it links to a letter from Taco Bell CEO Mark King, which condemns racism and says the company is “committed to being part of long term solutions.” But notably, that posts also said the company is muting its channels for the rest of the week to reflect, learn, and listen. It’s been well over a week, however, and all its social media pages remain silent.

It’s been well over a week, however, and all its social media pages remain silent. 

So to that message, Daniel said, “nahhhhhh sorry we sad about it but y’all goin too, i have your name tatted on me, been in commercials and y’all unfollowed me for just asking you about it lmfao. it’s also been 2 weeks since your statement and you haven’t done anything? disappointing. #RIPTacoBell.”

Along with Daniel, a ton of people expressed their disappointment with the fast-food chain, with some calling for a boycott. 

Others said that the fight for black lives isn’t a political issue and were confused by the firing given Taco Bell’s recent pledge to be a part of the solution.

Some have shared similar experiences they’ve faced, with one operating room nurse saying she left her job after she was told she couldn’t wear a mask that said, “My son deserves to live.” 

A lot of people are also comparing this situation to backlash Starbucks faced last week when people learned that its employees were banned from wearing Black Lives Matter attire under its dress code policy. The coffee chain at the time, prohibited employees from wearing attire that advocates for a political, religious, or personal matter. After a flood of outrage, it walked back on that policy and promised to send out BLM t-shirts co-designed by the Starbucks Black Partner Network. 

So with this incident at Taco Bell, people are finding a lot of these big company statements in support of Black Lives Matter hollow. 

Taco Bell’s Latest Statement

After seeing the backlash this morning, Taco Bell issued another statement to more news outlets, essentially hitting the same notes it did before by saying it was disappointed.

“We take this very seriously; we have been working closely with our franchisee that operates this location to address the issue,” it said.

“Our Chief People Officer and Yum!’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer spoke with Denzel last week to apologize and discuss the situation.” 

“Our goal is to ensure our policies are inclusive and keep our team members and customers safe. 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.”

Still, people like Daniel think they should be more vocal. He told Insider that Taco Bell “posted two weeks ago that they were ‘going mute for a week’ to make changes, sort of the opposite of what any brand should be doing, and still have yet to do anything publicly. Whether they’re doing things privately, that’s fine, but this isn’t a time to be private. It’s great that they apologized, but what is being done about his firing? The manager?”

See what others are saying: (WKBN) (Heavy) (Insider

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6 Dr. Seuss Books Won’t Be Published Anymore Because of Racist Imagery

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  • Six Dr. Seuss books will no longer be published because they “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced Tuesday.
  • The late author’s company said the decision was made last year after months of feedback from audiences, teachers, and other specialists in the academic field. 
  • However, many school districts and groups have moved away from Dr. Seuss for years because of racist stereotypes and insensitive imagery in some of his work.

Production of Six Offensive Books To End

Six Dr. Seuss books will stop being published because of racist and insensitive imagery, the business that preserves and protects the author’s legacy said Tuesday.

The list of books blocked from production are:

  • “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street”
  • “If I Ran the Zoo”
  • “McElligot’s Pool”
  • “On Beyond Zebra!”
  • “Scrambled Eggs Super!”
  • “The Cat’s Quizzer”

“These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong,” Dr. Seuss Enterprises wrote in its announcement letter. “Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’s catalog represents and supports all communities and families.”

Examples of Offending Content

A 2019 study published in the journal “Research on Diversity in Youth Literature,” looked at 50 books by Dr. Seuss and found 43 out of the 45 characters of color have “characteristics aligning with the definition of Orientalism,” or the stereotypical, offensive portrayal of Asia. It added that the two “African” characters both have anti-Black characteristics.

The study even pointed to specific examples. “In (“The Cat’s Quizzer”), the Japanese character is referred to as ‘a Japanese,’ has a bright yellow face, and is standing on what appears to be Mt. Fuji,” the authors wrote.

It also pointed to “If I Ran the Zoo” as an example of Orientalism and White supremacy.

“The three (and only three) Asian characters who are not wearing conical hats are carrying a White male on their heads in ‘If I Ran the Zoo.’ The White male is not only on top of, and being carried by, these Asian characters, but he is also holding a gun, illustrating dominance,” the study authors wrote. “The text beneath the Asian characters describes them as ‘helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant’ from ‘countries no one can spell.'”

The study also argues that since the majority of human characters in Dr. Seuss’ books are White, his works center Whiteness and thus perpetuate White supremacy.

Academic Groups Move Away From Seuss

The company told the Associated Press that the decision was made last year after months of feedback from audiences, teachers, and other specialists in the academic field.

Still, it’s worth noting that it also comes a week after a school district in Virginia made headlines for allegedly banning books written by Dr. Seuss, whose real name is Theodor Seuss Geisel.

The district eventually clarified that it was not banning his books. Instead, it said it was discouraging the connection between Dr. Seuss and “Read Across America Day,” which falls on the author’s birthday: March 2.

The decision to move away from Dr. Seuss books is not actually an uncommon move. School districts across the country have been doing the same.

The National Education Association, which founded “Read Across America Day” and deliberately aligned it with Dr. Seuss’ birthday, is included in that shift.

According to AP News, it’s been deemphasizing Seuss for years now and encouraging a more diverse reading list for kids.

While many have applauded Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ decision, others noted that it will continue to publish more popular books that have received criticism, including “The Cat in the Hat.”

For now, the company said it’s “committed to listening and learning and will continue to review our entire portfolio.”

See what others are saying: (CNN) (Deadline) (AP News)

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Nike Exec Resigns After Bloomberg Reveals Her Connection To Son’s Sneaker Resale Business

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  • Nike Executive Ann Hebert has voluntarily resigned from the company after it was revealed that her son used her credit card to purchase more than $100,000 worth of new shoes for his shoe-resell business.
  • The connection was first noticed by Bloomberg reporter Joshua Hunt, who was working on a profile of Hebert’s son, Joe. 
  • According to a Nike spokesperson, Hebert disclosed the relevant information about her son’s business to the company and hadn’t violated company policy. 
  • Still, Hunt’s report led to swift condemnation for Hebert, with many believing she had used her position to help her son scalp shoes. 

Nike Exec Resigns 

Nike Executive Ann Hebert voluntarily resigned Monday after Bloomberg exposed her connection to her son’s sneaker flipping business last week.

The report, published on Feb. 25, follows 19-year-old Joe Hebert and details how he spent more than $100,000 buying new shoes to resell at his business, West Coast Streetwear. In the article, reporter Joshua Hunt noted that types of shoes Joe bought would sell out in hours and that for people like him, “The sneaker market… is a lot like playing the [stock] market.”

“In the hours after siphoning up stock from retailers, they essentially sell short-term futures based on street sentiment,” Hunt said. 

While scalping is a controversial enough practice on its own, near the end of the article, Hunt notes an unusual connection.

“At one point in late June… [Joe] phoned me, and the number was identified as belonging to Ann Hebert,” Hunt said. “I looked the name up and discovered there was an Ann Hebert who’d worked at Nike for 25 years and had recently been made its vice president and general manager for North America.”

Notably, the April 2020 press release announcing Ann’s new position stated she would be “instrumental in accelerating our consumer direct offense in North America.” That initiative redirected sales from retailers directly to consumers, and as a result, it helped to fuel the resale market. 

“[Joe] Hebert later sent me a statement for an American Express corporate card for [West Coast Streetwear]… and it was in Ann’s name,” Hunt said in his article.

Hunt said he later asked Joe about the connection and while Joe admitted that Ann was his mother, he said she was too high up at Nike to be involved in what he does and that he’d never received inside information, such as discount codes, from her. He then insisted that she not be mentioned in the article and cut off contact.

From there, Hunt reached out to Ann and Nike directly. While Ann didn’t respond, a spokesperson told Hunt that Ann hadn’t violated company policy and that she had disclosed the relevant information about her son’s business to Nike. 

Online Reaction

Ann’s resignation comes amid outrage online, but the reaction to her resignation itself has been mixed. 

There’s been no shortage of criticism against Ann following the announcement of her step down, and she’s even become the butt of a number of jokes. Still, others have defended her. 

“The worst part is that Ann Hebert worked her way up the ladder in a male-dominated industry for 25 years only to be knocked down by her clout-chasing son,” TV host Tamara Dhia tweeted.

Others have said that with everything publicly known so far, they still feel like Ann was in the wrong.

See what others are saying: (Complex) (CNBC) (New York Post)

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Doctors Urge People Not Skip Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 Vaccine for Moderna or Pfizer’s

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  • The FDA and CDC approved Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine over the weekend, allowing the company to begin shipping doses Monday for use later this week.
  • Unlike Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines, Johnson & Johnson’s can be stored at higher temperatures for longer and only requires a single shot. 
  • Still, experts are worried people may try to skip the vaccine for either Pfizer or Moderna’s version since they have higher efficacy rates.
  • Because of this, health officials have stressed that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is still highly effective and necessary to keep the U.S. from seeing another rise in daily case rates.

CDC Recommends Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine on Sunday for Americans 18 and older. With that, the first doses of the vaccine began shipping out Monday, and vaccinations are expected to begin sometime this week.

The CDC’s recommendation came one day after the Food and Drug Administration authorized the vaccine for emergency use.

Johnson & Johnson is expected to ship 3.9 million doses this week. By the end of March, it hopes to have shipped a total of 20 million doses.

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is also notable for two reasons. First, it doesn’t need to be kept frozen like the Pfizer vaccine and can be kept in a fridge for much longer than the Moderna vaccine. Second, it only needs to be administered once — not twice. 

The approval and recommendation of this vaccine come at a potentially pivotal juncture. Since mid-January, the rate of new COVID-19 infections has been steadily falling; however, for the last week, daily infection rates have begun to plateau.

While it’s undoubtedly good news that the U.S. isn’t once again seeing a rise in cases, as CDC Director Rochelle Walensky explained, this is “a very concerning shift in the trajectory.” 

That’s because it very likely could result in a rise in cases. 

For example, experts worry that the public, as well as state and local officials, may be starting to let their guards down after hearing the news of falling infection rates. Still, those experts have reminded people that Monday marks one year since the announcement of the first coronavirus death in the U.S.

Since then, the U.S. alone has logged more than half a million deaths from this virus.

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Efficacy 

The addition of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has the capacity to help keep infection rates from climbing once more, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some challenges. 

In fact, a major concern now seems to be around the effectiveness of the vaccine.

Notably, in late-stage trials, it was 85% effective against severe cases of COVID-19, with no deaths or hospitalizations being reported in the month after participants received the vaccine. It was also found to be around 72% effective at preventing moderate infections. 

Still, that’s less than the 94% and 95% efficacy rates for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, respectively. 

Because of that discrepancy, some health officials have begun to worry that people will try to skip the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in favor of the other two. 

As a result, experts are assuring the public that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is still highly effective. They’ve also noted that the studies for the three different vaccines happened at different stages of the pandemic and in different environments. 

“They were compared under different circumstances,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIAID, said. “All three of them are really quite good, and people should take the one that’s most available to them… people need to get vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible.”

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Reuters) (CNN)

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