Following public outcry over an unfortunate Walmart ad featuring a black man saying, "I can't breathe," the department store super-giant announced on Thursday it'd be pulling it off the air. Daniel Pantaleo was cleared by a grand jury for the chokehold death of Eric Garner on Wednesday, a verdict which has been the subject of uproar across the country over the past three days. The Walmart ad, which is for a T-Mobile cell phone offered by the store, features an over-excited African-American teenage girl tightly embracing her father in order to take selfies with him after he buys her the phone, to which he replies wearily, "I can't breathe."
That phrase, while a simple one, has served as the battle cry for protestors of the NYPD's actions and the subsequent grand jury decision. Garner — an asthmatic — was recorded saying it 11 times before his death. Shortly after the ad aired during NBC's The Voice on the night of Wednesday, Dec. 3, Walmart received an influx of Tweets and other complaints regarding the insensitivity of the ad. On Twitter, Walmart replied to many of these complains, saying it would pull the ad down and retool it to eliminate any allusion, however accidental, to Eric Garner's death.
A Walmart spokesperson told Huffington Post the ad had been aired since the summer, and she wasn't sure if it appeared before or after Garner's death. Uh huh.
Now, I think it's safe to assume the commercial is, in no way, an actual allusion to the incident. Walmart's ad, and ad writers, are most likely victims of being at the wrong place at the really, really wrong time. Comments on stories about the incident, as you might imagine, vary from being generally supportive of Walmart's decision, to wondering what the big deal is, to outright condemnation of the decision.
One of the top voted comments on CNN's story reads:
The people who get offended at Walmart ads are people who are offended by everything. It's a small but inordinately loud minority of folks who just don't have enough important things to think about. Sadly though, social media gave them all a voice.
Huh. I mean, it's no surprise that the Internet is replete with ignorance, but sometimes it can really surprise you. In any case, I believe pulling the ad was absolutely the correct thing to do. The U.S. is in the middle of a very important, albeit tragic conversation regarding police brutality toward minorities — which is marked by the loss of real lives. Any measure taken to make sure the appropriate sensitivity is taken toward said lost life and the gravitas of the issue is a good one.
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