A hat store in Nashville, Tennessee has apologized after selling “NOT VACCINATED” badges in the shape of a yellow Star of David.
“In NO WAY did I intend to trivialize the Star of David or disrespect what happened to millions of people,” the store, hatWRKS, wrote in an Instagram post. “I sincerely apologize for any insensitivity.”
The shop had faced a furious backlash on social media and a crowd of real-life protesters after a previous post, which cheerfully advertised the Holocaust-themed badges.
“Patches are here!!” hatWRKS wrote on its Instagram above a photo of a smiling woman wearing one of the yellow badges. “They turned out great. $5ea.”
In Nazi Germany, Jews were legally required to wear patches in the shape of the six-pointed star so they could more easily be singled out for persecution. Many saw hatWRKS’ post as anti-Semitic.
“Using the yellow star, or any Holocaust imagery for anything is a disservice to the memory of the 6 million Jews who were systematically murdered during the Holocaust,” Rabbi Laurie Rice told WSMV.
As the outrage grew, hatWRKS initially went on the defensive.
“People are so outraged by my post? But are you outraged with the tyranny the world is experiencing?” the shop wrote on Instagram. “If you don’t understand what is happening, that is on you, not me.”
Before long, demonstrators had gathered outside the store. One of them, Nashville resident Ron Rivlin, blamed hatWRKS owner Gigi Gaskins for the offensive products.
“We're here to protest hate and ignorance with regard to what she's doing in selling yellow stars that are a symbol of the greatest atrocity the world has ever seen, which is the loss of 6 million human beings,” Mr Rivlin told CNN on Saturday.
The apparel company Stetson also announced that it was cutting ties with the shop.
“As a result of the offensive content and opinions shared by HatWRKS in Nashville, Stetson and our distribution partners will cease the sale of all Stetson products,” the retailer tweeted.
Later that day, hatWRKS posted its apology, which said the badges had been misunderstood.
“My intent was not to exploit or make a profit,” the store explained. “My hope was to share my genuine concern & fear, and to do all that I can to make sure that nothing like that ever happens again.”
The Star of David imagery may also be a reference to recent comments by Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has repeatedly compared the treatment of unmasked or unvaccinated Americans to the Holocaust.
“You know, we can look back at a time in history where people were told to wear a gold star,” Ms Greene said earlier this month while discussing mask mandates on a conservative podcast, “and they were definitely treated like second-class citizens, so much so that they were put on trains and taken to gas chambers in Nazi Germany, and this is exactly the type of abuse that Nancy Pelosi is talking about.”
Later that week, the congresswoman doubled down on the comparison.
“Vaccinated employees get a vaccination logo just like the Nazi’s [sic] forced Jewish people to wear a gold star,” she tweeted.
The comments have drawn widespread condemnation from both Democrats and Republicans.
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