Think football’s a rough game?
Try the national media during the buildup to the Super Bowl.
Barry Maylor, owner of a Tacoma entertainment center called Odyssey 1, is being pummeled in newspapers and online for allegedly firing an employee for wearing a Denver Broncos’ jersey to work.
With the Super Bowl game days away, it’s been an irresistible tale.
“It was all about you can’t,” the employee, 17-year-old Nathaniel Wentz, told KING 5, which aired the story Sunday. “You can’t represent your team. There’s something wrong with that.”
The story has been repeated across the country, from USA Today and CBS News, and it’s gone viral online and on radio talk shows, eliciting threats on Maylor’s life and a constant stream of verbal abuse to his staff.
The headline, variations of which have been repeated thousands of times: “Tacoma teen fired for wearing Denver Broncos jersey to work.”
Good story, but Maylor says it’s a distortion of the truth.
Wentz was not fired for wearing a Broncos’ jersey, Maylor said, but for not returning to work after being sent home to change into clothing authorized by company policy.
“We don’t care the color of the jersey, but we do care about not creating conflict in our facility, and that’s why we have that policy, which is one team jersey – our local Seahawks,” Maylor said Wednesday.
“This is not an abnormal policy,” he said. “There are any number of retail places that are doing the same thing.”
In Maylor’s mind, allowing Seahawks jerseys only was an attempt to show community support. Allowing other jerseys would have created a potential for conflict, he said.
“Basically, it limits the possibility of conflict between customers and employees and also employee to employee,” he said. “It puts everybody on the same team.”
Maylor says he has no ill-will for the Broncos.
“My wife and I are not even football people,” he said.
Since the media blitz began, Maylor said the abuse and threats have been unrelenting. He and his employees have been warned not to appear in the parking lot after dark; they’ve been called names, and callers have threatened to vandalize his business.
He said he asked Tacoma police to provide extra security patrols.
“Unfortunately, a story like this brings out haters,” he said. “And there are a lot of haters.”
Rob Carson: 253-597-8693