Wearing the Other Team's Colors Can Cost You Your Job


© Mark Cowan/Icon SMI/Corbis

You’ve probably already heard the story of Chicagoland car dealer John Stone’s abrupt dismissal from his job on Monday. Stone celebrated the Green Bay Packers’ victory over the Chicago Bears in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game by wearing a Packers tie to work on Monday. Stone says he wasn't just trying to rub it in with local Bears fans, either; he claimed the tie was a tribute to his late grandmother, a Packers fanatic who had been buried the previous Friday.

Stone’s bosses at Webb Chevrolet in Oak Lawn—a radio sponsor of Bears games on WBBM—weren’t amused. The Packers had rolled through the hometown Bears to punch their Super Bowl ticket, and what Chicago car shopper would want to buy a ride from a guy whose tie celebrated the crushing defeat? The dealership’s general manager told Stone to remove the tie, and when Stone refused, the manager fired him.

Stone’s story may have a happy ending, as he’s already got an interview lined up at a competing Chevy dealership and at least one public job offer from another dealer. (Webb Chevrolet also offered Stone his old job back after the media firestorm started, but he turned them down.) The really strange thing, though, is that Stone is far from the first person to get the ax for wearing the wrong team’s colors. Check out these other employees who have found themselves in similar situations:

Grocery Clerk Gets Sacked

Something about the Packers’ green and gold just isn’t good for fans’ job security.

Sam Young was working as a clerk at a Minyard’s Grocery Store in Dallas in January 1996 when the hometown Cowboys were set to host the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game. The store gave employees two options for their attire the Saturday of the game: they could wear their normal work uniforms or Cowboys team colors.

Young, a Washington Redskins fan, couldn’t stomach the idea of wearing the colors of the Skins’ hated rivals, the Cowboys. Instead, he decided to purchase a Packers shirt and wear that to show his disdain for Troy Aikman and company. Probably not a smart move, as Dallas fans were in such a frenzy for this game that other area supermarkets had removed all Wisconsin-made cheeses from their coolers. The store quickly fired the 26-year-old for his Cowboy-detracting insubordination.

Young threatened to sue the Minyard’s chain, but most legal experts interviewed by the press said he didn’t really have a case. His story became international news, though, and offers to do talk shows began rolling in. Young even booked a date on Letterman!

The heady times only lasted for a week and a half, though. Ten days after Young’s story first hit the papers, the Associated Press reported that he had been busted for alleged marijuana possession. According to the AP story, Young said that the story of his firing “was causing so much stress that smoking marijuana seemed the only way he could relax.” Letterman quickly rescinded his invitation.

Gators Hat Takes Bite Out of Job

The media likes to hype up these fired-fan stories, but even media jobs aren’t safe if you wear the wrong colors. Last August Renee Gork, a radio personality for KAKS “Hog Sports Radio” in northwest Arkansas, made the mistake of wearing a University of Florida Gators hat to one of University of Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino’s press conferences.

Gork said that after realizing her blunder she wrote the university and Petrino letters of apology, but her employers weren’t so forgiving and gave Gork her pink slip. Although reports later surfaced that Gork was already on thin ice with the station due to the content of her tweets, she publicly contended that her termination was based on the hat. Station general manager Dan Storrs declined to confirm this report, but he told the Associated Press, "This radio station is Hog Sports Radio. We are very biased. We support the Razorbacks 100 percent."

Wardrobe Choice Cuts Barbers

At least Stone and Young got canned over playoff games. Hair stylists Marta Gonzales and Katie Bustos were given their walking papers over a dispute before a meaningless preseason game! The two were working as barbers in an Arvada, CO, salon when the 1980 NFL exhibition season cranked up. Both were told that stylists in the shop had to wear Denver Broncos t-shirts on game days, and they objected.

When their boss reminded the two stylists that wearing a Broncos shirt was a known condition of their employment, they tried to reach a compromise. Bustos put on the shirt but covered it with a sweater. Gonzales switched into a Broncos practice jersey. No dice, though; it was t-shirt or nothing. Both women were fired.

Honor Student Learns Painful Lesson

Vannoy later said that he figured his friends and classmates would give him some good-natured ribbing about his wardrobe choice, particularly since the Steelers had already ousted the Broncos. He didn’t anticipate the over-the-top bullying from John Kelly, the teacher of his honors class on ethnic relations. Vannoy showed up to Kelly’s class expecting to take a midterm, but things flew off the rails pretty quickly. When Vannoy took his seat in the class, he says Kelly told him to “get out of my desk. You're sitting in my desk."

Forcing a kid to sit on the floor to take a midterm is rotten enough, but Kelly was just getting warmed up. Vannoy said that the teacher gave each of the other students in the class sheets of notebook paper and said, “This is part two of your test. You'll get points for this. Take the paper and ball it up with two hands and throw it at the Denver fan.” When one girl refused to join in on the barrage, Vannoy said Kelly took the paper from her, wadded it up, and chucked it at the back of Vannoy’s head himself. Vannoy said the experience rattled him so thoroughly that he didn’t even answer many of the questions on the midterm. He eventually transferred to another school.

But Kelly escaped discipline for the flap. The school district investigated the incident and determined that singling Vannoy out for the paper-ball pelting was actually a bizarre teaching technique for the class on ethnic relations. The district issued a statement that read, “As part of the course, students are often singled out to exemplify uncomfortable treatment and students who enroll in the course are aware of this fact.”