Food Lion Reverses Course After Outcry: ‘Will Allow Associates to Wear Masks With the American Flag’

We reported Tuesday that the son of a WWII vet quit Food Lion because he was told he could not wear his American flag face mask. An employee at the store verified the story to us.

Fox News reported the next day that 69-year-old Gary Dean was an Air Force veteran. They also reported on a statement from the company saying that Food Lion has “great respect for the American flag.”

At the time though, they said that they also have blanket policies banning writing, insignia and symbols “to ensure a consistent and professional representation of our associates inside of our stores.”

Tonight, however, they reversed course, and while they maintained that they have “great respect for the American flag” and will “continue to maintain” their “uniform policy,” they will allow associates to wear masks with the American flag.

The change of heart, they say, comes after listening to their “associates & customers” about their mask policy over the past few days. It is unclear yet if Dean will return to his job.

Previously from Fox News:

“Apparently corporate came down and said somebody was offended by the image of the American flag on the face covering,” he told New Bern-based NewsChannel 12. “As a veteran, my dad being a World War II hero, my best friend killed in Vietnam — out of respect for them I can’t just say no, I’ll take my flag and put it in my pocket.”

That left him with just one choice. “I had to quit, out of principle,” he said.

Speaking with Todd Starnes on his radio show Thursday afternoon, Dean said he favored the gaiter-style American flag mask after the company’s coronavirus safety guidelines began requiring employees to wear masks.

But even though some experts have warned that gaiters are less effective than other face coverings, the company apparently took issue with the flag itself because it violated a policy prohibiting clothing with writing, insignias or symbols.

“Three days ago, somebody apparently complained about me wearing the flag,” he said, although he wasn’t sure why. He stood his ground and said he couldn’t stay on the job without being able to wear the flag – even as he praised his former co-workers and boss.

“The people that I worked with at that particular Food Lion in Havelock are some of the nicest people I’ve ever worked with,” he said.

And despite Food Lion’s policy, the company does provide special parking for veterans outside – marked with American flags.

Dean, who told NewsChannel12 he was in the Air Force from 1970 to 1976, also used to work at the station and others, according to his Facebook page. He spent decades as a journalist and radio host.

Local CBS 17 report: