Ah, America. Where something as simple as a T-shirt — or a news outlet writing about a T-shirt — can spark responses for days to come. After some sites reported on tweets criticizing Chris Pratt’s attire last week, the designer has responded to Pratt’s American flag shirt controversy, disagreeing with the aforementioned critics and announcing a re-release of the same design worn by Pratt. Those who took issue with Pratt’s shirt interpreted the Gadsden Flag logo as a symbol embraced by the far right, and speculated on what the actor’s own political position might be. Forged Clothing, the brand and designer behind the shirt, however, clearly doesn’t agree that the logo has troubling connotations.
The Gadsden Flag depicts a rattlesnake with the slogan “don’t tread on me;” on Pratt’s Forged Clothing tee, the design is merged with an American flag. After Pratt was spotted in the shirt, people responded with tweets referencing the Gadsden Flag’s adoption by the alt-right and specifically by white supremacists. In response to articles reporting this criticism, Forged Clothing offered a statement via a Facebook post decrying Pratt’s critics and expanding on what their organization and the flag itself stand for.
“We at Forged would like to address the ridiculous accusations that Chris Pratt supports white supremacy because he wears our ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ T-Shirt,” the post begins. “We are a Navy SEAL-founded, patriotic, and military-inspired brand. Our CEO and members of our Forged team served alongside military service members of all races, cultures, and ethnicities. As we fought for our country, many of us wore the 1st Navy Jack flag on the sleeves of our uniforms, which the Gadsden military-authorized flag is based on. This incredibly powerful symbol was one of the first flags flown by our Continental Navy since 1776 and is still widely used by our military forces today.”
The Gadsden Flag originated as an anti-British symbol in the 1700’s, embraced by the likes of Benjamin Franklin. Per The New Yorker, the flag then existed as “something of a Revolutionary relic” up through the 1970’s, when the Libertarian movement took an interest in tit. But it wasn’t until 2001, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, that the Gadsden Flag really re-emerged on the modern political scene — now as “an all-purpose signifier of swaggering defiance.”
In recent years, the flag has been embraced by far right groups, with a 2014 workplace complaint submitted to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission bringing debate surrounding the flag’s connotations to the public’s attention. Ultimately, the EEOC offered no definitive ruling on what the Gadsden Flag represented, saying only that it had been “sometimes interpreted to convey racially-tinged messages in some contexts.” In other contexts, it’s clearly interpreted differently. The Gadsden Flag is also currently used by the U.S. men’s soccer team and the band Metallica.
Forged, in addition to celebrating Pratt’s continued partnership with them and his aid in supporting various charitable foundations, wrapped up the post by announcing that it will re-release this T-shirt design. “We are not Nike,” the company wrote, referring to Nike’s recall of a Betsy Ross-flag sneaker earlier this month, in response to similar criticism that Pratt and Forged are facing now. “The four tweets that have been posted […] DO NOT scare us. We will not back down and recall our Gadsden Flag shirts. Instead, we are going to re-release this design.”
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