The Worst Tributes To MLK Jr.

It’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and you know what that means: In the midst of moving reflections and touching speeches, there'll be a sea of clueless and ill-informed “tributes” that completely misappropriate Dr. King’s legacy. It shouldn’t be surprising that the most shameless such example came from Sarah Palin, who advised President Obama Monday to stop "playing the race card," but plenty of others are guilty, too.

On the slightly less offensive end of the spectrum, there were businesses that chose to honor King by using him to peddle merchandise on their corporate Twitter accounts. The shining example here is Pop Chips, which tastefully referred to King as an “eternal poptimist” and plastered one of his quotes against against the Pop Chip background. We're sure King would be proud of that. There was also ZzzQuil, which proclaimed on its Twitter that “today is the day for dreaming.”

Tacky, yes, but ZzzQuil is a sleep aid, so at least it kind of has some relevance. The same can’t be said for Canoe and Kayak Magazine, which tweeted out its list of the “top 10 dream sea kayaking trips” in honor of King, or Schwinn, which told its followers to honor MLK by riding a bike (preferably a Schwinn.) To drive the point home, they attached a picture of King riding a bike. Okay.

Moving into slightly worse territory, we have Pornhub, the porn tube site that apparently has a Twitter account for some reason. While there’s no “good” way to use Martin Luther King to promote a porno website, this effort seemed particularly egregious:

They quickly apologized, albeit not for the right reasons.

Now, all of these companies were using King to promote their products. It’s not the most respectful tribute in the world, but at least it’s not acting in direct opposition to everything King stood for. The same can’t be said for Palin, who used the legacy of a leader who urged reconciliation and cooperation to make a cheap political attack on President Obama.

“Mr. President, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and all who commit to ending any racial divide, no more playing the race card,” the former half-term governor said on her Facebook page. She didn’t specify how, exactly, Obama had played the race card; perhaps she was referring to the president’s recent interview with the New Yorker, wherein he asserted that some people “just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black president.”

As any sentient person can see, that’s hardly playing the race card, especially given what he said right afterwards: “There are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I'm a black president." But such nuances are apparently lost on Palin.

Regardless, in the name of avoiding politics and product placement, we’ll keep it simple: Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, everybody.

Image: Wikimedia Commons