A McDonald's franchise in Massachusetts is apologizing for any "unintended offense" that may have been caused by a controversial Halloween decoration it displayed earlier this month.
College student Erik Pocock noticed the design when visiting the chain's North Andover, Mass., location with his friends last week. As he got to the register to check out, Pocock noticed a series of stickers in front of the register.
One of those stickers included what appeared to be a man hanging from a tree by a noose — an image he immediately found offensive.
"My friends and I were completely shocked that a large establishment like McDonald's would put decorations like these up for all to see. It’s disgusting, insensitive and I can’t believe someone thought this was a good idea," Pocock told TODAY on Monday.
Pocock shot a video of the decoration and posted it to his Twitter page, which is private. He tagged the primary McDonald's account in his tweet, asking the company, "Can you explain this?"
The video went viral, with local news outlets and Twitter commenters sharing images of the sticker and debating its offensiveness.
"Definitely not appropriate," one user commented. "Why are we associating Halloween with lynching which obviously this is undoubtedly a display of such an act."
Others were more dismissive of the image, saying it was simply a horror-themed decoration like many other Halloween displays.
"Uhhh, Halloween is associated with death in any number of horrible ways - it's the season of gory horror movies after all," another user tweeted.
Some users suggested it was a reference to the Salem Witch Trials, which took place in Massachusetts and are a common source of Halloween imagery. Still, others said they were upset that Pocock had flagged the image as "insensitive" at all.
"You sensitive whiners are associating it with lynching. Halloween has always been about spooky, eerie things. We hang scarecrows from trees or porches because it's spooky. That's exactly what that drawing shows!" one user tweeted.
Chuck Lietz, the owner and operator of the North Andover franchise, apologized for the imagery and announced that the stickers had been removed.
"We deeply regret that these decorations were on display, and as soon as we identified the inappropriate content, we immediately removed the decorations display," Lietz said in a public statement. "Creating an environment that is welcoming and inclusive to all our guests and employees is critically important to us, and we apologize for any unintended offense they may have had on our community."