Man kicked off Southwest flight over language on t-shirt

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

ST. LOUIS, MO. (KTVI) – A New York college student found himself stranded in St. Louis, Monday after being kicked off a Southwest Airlines flight that wasn’t even supposed to land here.  The conflict raises a classic first amendment debate of free speech, versus vulgar language.

Update:  Man kicked off St. Louis flight for shirt now selling offensive shirts

Daniel Podolsky was on a flight from Dallas to Chicago, and  only set foot in Lambert Airport because of bad weather in the Windy City.   But the college kid apparently forgot a couple of lessons from kindergarten about bad words, and playing well with others.

At issue:  his t-shirt.  The garment, promoting the Comedy Central show “Broad City,” says in bold letters, “Broad F—— City,” but the “F-word” is fully spelled out.  It was one of hundreds handed out by the comedy channel at the South By Southwest festival Podolsky had just left.  He says his jacket was hiding the shirt when he walked around for all to see, but when he got on the plane, it was tight quarters and he took the jacket off.

His flight made the unscheduled stop in St. Louis and he got off to use the restroom.  That, he says, is when a Southwest gate agent noticed the shirt and said he would need to remove it.

“It’s only when I got back on the plane when it was gonna take off, ya know, you have this much space, you’re gonna take your jacket off because it’s hot,” he explained.  “I took my jacket off, so he sent someone to remove me from the flight.”

We asked him if he was given an opportunity to remedy the situation.

“Did they give you any opportunity to put your jacket back on, to change the shirt, to put it inside out?” we asked.  Podolsky’s response:  “It just happened so fast. Within thirty seconds the flight was gone.  I mean I would have gladly done so.”

But the video of the confrontation on the plane that Podolsky provided FOX 2 tells a slightly different tale.  Saying he “would have gladly done so,” is clearly not the case.

“They talked to you about your shirt?” the airline employee is seen asking him at the door of the aircraft.  Podolsky responds, “They did.”

Then the employee proceeds to provide him with several chances to keep his seat on the flight.

(Worker) ”Can you change the shirt?”

(Podolsky) ”Nope.”

(Worker) “Can you put the jacket on and leave it on through the flight?”

(Podolsky) (Inaudible)

(Worker) “Can you put the shirt on inside out?”

(Podolsky) “Nope.”

(Worker) “Is there anything you can do not to display the shirt because at this point we can’t allow you to go.”

(Podolsky) “I have freedom of speech.”

(Worker) “I know you do…”

(Podolsky) “Really it’s not bothering anyone.”

(Worker) “I can show you in our contract of carriage that you can’t wear any shirts that says offensive…”

(Podolsky) “Can we take a poll?”

There would be no poll and he would be asked to leave the plane.  He confronted the original gate agent as he left, and he says airport police escorted him from the terminal.  He then contacted FOX 2.

We asked him why he wore the shirt to begin with, considering the likelihood it would offend someone he encountered along his journey.

“Well, is it really in the airline’s position to make that call?” he asked, “especially when the only time you can see the shirt I’m in my little box of space.

“There are more than a hundred people on the plane trying to get to Chicago and the most important thing is my shirt?  How does that work?  Where’s the sense of priority?”

Southwest Airlines backed the actions of their crew in a statement sent to us late Monday.

“We rely on our Employees and Customers to use common sense and good judgment,” spokesman Dan Landson said.

As for Podolsky, he was eventually allowed to board a 7:15pm Southwest flight to his final destination of New York.  The agreement was reached after he changed his shirt.


About FOX 2 News

FOX 2 and KPLR 11 in St. Louis cover the news in Missouri and Illinois. There are over 68 hours of live news and local programming on-air each week. Our website and live video streams operate 24/7. Download our apps for alerts and follow us on social media for updates in your feed.

President Harry Truman said: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” That spirit is alive and well at Fox 2. Our teamwork is on display each and every day.

Our news slogan is: “Coverage You Can Count On.” We quite frankly are too busy to worry about who gets the credit. Our main concern is serving the viewer.

We go where the stories take us. Whether it be Washington, D.C when a Belleville man opened fire during a congressional baseball game practice or to Puerto Rico where local Ameren crews restored power after more than 5 months in the dark.

Coverage You Can Count On means “Waking up your Day” with our top-rated morning show. From 4:00 am-10:00 am we are leading the way with breaking news. But our early morning crew also knows how to have some fun! Our strong commitment to the communities we serve is highlighted with our Friday neighborhood shows.

Our investigative unit consists of three reporters. Elliott Davis focuses on government waste, Chris Hayes is our investigative reporter, and Mike Colombo is our consumer reporter. They work in unison with the news department by sharing resources and ideas.

We continue to cover breaking news aggressively and relied on our seasoned journalists to make a difference with the stories we covered. The shooting of Arnold Police Officer Ryan O’Connor is just one example of that. Jasmine Huda was the only reporter who had exclusive access to the O’Connor family during his amazing rehabilitation in Colorado.

Last, but certainly not least, FOX 2 and KPLR 11 are committed to covering local politics. We host debates among candidates and have the most extensive presidential election coverage. Our commitment to politics isn’t just during an election year. We produce two political shows that air every weekend.


Latest News

More News