Staff members at Paisano’s Italian Restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico decided to change a billboard display to “Black Olives Matter, Try Our Tapenade” one week after the police shooting deaths of two African-American men set off protests around the country, the Washington Post reports.
Owner Rick Camuglia then shared a photo of the sign on the official Facebook page.
“We put up what we thought was a cute play on words, which we do commonly here at the restaurant,” he told NBC affiliate KOB 4. “We were trying to promote our pan-seared Ahi tuna with a black olive tapenade relish.”
But many found the pun in poor taste given the serious conditions — police brutality, racial bias and corruption in the criminal justice system — members of the Black Lives Matter movement have fought against.
— Eater (@Eater) July 18, 2016
Critics rushed to social media to vent their frustrations, with many leaving colorful remarks on Facebook.
One user wrote: “How tacky & hideous thats the best bs u can hide behind sum F****** funky old A** Olives!!!”
Another commenter said:
“As a woman of color I find your posting offensive and in very bad taste. You simply wish to rub salt in an ugly festering wound which evil minded people refuse to allow to heal,” according to TIME.com
Yet another wrote:
“I am in New Zealand and news of your insensitive sign reached us. I am a white woman and mother and it offended me. I bet you wouldn’t be laughing if the sign poked fun at Italians. What is happening in America saddens so many, even all the way in the southern hemisphere. I love a good joke, but there are things that you just don’t joke about. You are probably one of the racist people that doesn’t care if you see black people murdered? Sounds like it to me. I hope the restaurant is named and shamed and loses business.”
Others showed an appreciation for the crew’s choice of words, urging opponents to lighten up.
“I think some people need to take a deep breath, get some perspective (and a sense of humor while they’re at it)…”
“Ya know, Irish, Jews, Hispanics, Catholics, Lutherans, etc. We all laugh at ourselves. Get the chip off of your shoulder and quit looking for an excuse to be offended. They took the sign down to pacify you whiners. Get over it. I haven’t been to Paisano’s in years but my wife and I are going to drive across town to have dinner there. Have a nice day.”
“I think I’ll drive from Vegas to Albuquerque just to eat at your restaurant.”
Although the offending sign and corresponding image have indeed been taken down, Camuglia told KOB 4 he had no regrets or intention to apologize to those who found fault with the message.
The Albuquerque branch of the NAACP thanked Paisano’s for removing what they called an ‘offensive marketing idea.’
“Unjustified killing of innocent Black men is nothing to joke about,” president Harold Bailey wrote in a statement to local station KRQE. “Whether it was intentional or not, it sent the wrong message to many.”
The controversy has brought more business to the restaurant, which was detailed in a “thank you” statement posted to Facebook on July 15.
“Many have shown a unique way to show solidarity. I can’t count the number of customer’s orders who’ve included adding black olives to every dish ordered,” the statement read. “Pizzas, sandwiches and pasta dishes with ‘double black olives please!’ all day long. So much that we almost ran out and ordered more.”