At a golf tournament hosted by a Pennsylvania county’s chamber of commerce, four golfers reportedly dressed up as U.S. Border Patrol agents, while their caddy played the part of an undocumented immigrant driving a cart decorated as the U.S. Mexico border wall.
A photo posted by the Meadville-Western Crawford County Chamber of Commerce of the golfers received immediate backlash online, where community members have called the costumes "offensive,” “appalling,” and “despicable.”
“This was a completely appalling show of racism and lack of any human compassion by ‘professionals’ in our community,” commented one Facebook user.
The golfers in the now-deleted photo were participating in a fiesta-themed women’s golf tournament on June 26, held for members of the local chamber of commerce. And it was members of the group sponsored by the Meadville Medical Center who allegedly won a costume contest by wearing matching T-shirts and hats that read “border patrol.”
“Shame on you Chamber, shame on you! You gave this group an AWARD!!!! Pathetic,” one community member commented on Facebook.
The local NAACP Meadville and Crawford county President, Drake Parker, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that he was “outraged” and “disappointed” when he saw the “offensive” costumes chosen by his local fellow business owners.
“That was a flat-out statement or insult to everyone of Hispanic heritage by saying that you all are illegal aliens or trying to jump the border,” Parker tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
“Whether it was meant to be funny or make a statement, it doesn’t matter — it was was a bad move, and a dumb move.”
One online user slammed the team for having the caddy dressed up as an immigrant and wearing handcuffs, though that detail has remained unconfirmed.
“People dressed as Border Patrol with an immigrant in handcuffs. That was appalling! The fact that they won the contest (even though these costumes had nothing to do with the theme "fiesta!"), that was appalling,” wrote one Facebook user, who wrote she previously worked at the Meadville Medical Center. “Seeing this in my news feed right next to photos of children stolen from their parents, sick and neglected, in American internment camps, that was appalling!”
While Meadville Medical Center did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment, the organization’s vice president of consumer engagement, Don Rhoten said in a statement to the Meadville Tribune that the “message conveyed through this image in no way reflects the values or position of the Medical Center,” adding that center, “sincerely apologize to anyone it offended.”
Following the swift online criticism of the photo, the Meadville Crawford County Chamber of Commerce deleted the photo and posted an apology statement to its Facebook page, on July 5.
Many community members were unsatisfied with the apology issued by the Meadville Chamber of Commerce on Facebook, believing it to be insincere.
“You are not sorry this team at your event denigrated human beings. You are sorry people are calling you out on it. Despicable!” wrote one outraged Facebook user.
While many Meadville locals were outraged by the “tasteless” costume, the 54-year-old NAACP Meadville chapter president says that statement made with the costumes does not represent all of the businesses in the local chamber. However, Parker believes it is an opportunity for the community to come together and educate fellow community members.
“The photo was unfortunate and irresponsible and shows the need for us as a community to come together and bring education and clarity to other business owners and individuals in the community to better understand why something like this is offensive,” Parker tells Yahoo Lifestyle, adding that the local NAACP, locals and other social justice groups will be meeting with the Chamber of Commerce on July 11.
“We want to open a dialogue make sure something like this doesn’t happen again.”
The Executive Board of Directors of the Meadville Chamber tells Yahoo Lifestyle in a statement that it “sincerely apologizes for the event theme and costumes worn at our Women’s Golf Outing.”
“Among the many values that the Meadville Chamber of Commerce promotes, inclusiveness and diversity are central to our mission. Because of the importance of those values, the Meadville Chamber of Commerce sincerely apologizes for the event theme and costumes worn at our Women’s Golf Outing,” reads the statement.
“Over the last several days, many of the Chamber’s members, along with several members of the community in Crawford County and elsewhere, have expressed concern that the photo does not reflect the Chamber’s dedication to inclusiveness and diversity. The Chamber will be taking steps in the coming weeks to improve our social responsibility to our community and membership.”
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