The owner of a tire shop in Ohio is receiving backlash from the community after putting “white lives matter” on the sign outside of his business.
The owner of Mike’s Tire in Bethesda told WTRF he put up the sign outside his tire shop more than three weeks ago and started receiving calls and Facebook comments this week.
It reads, “Closed Weekends White Lives Matter Who Else Would Pay 4 Welfare Trump 2020,” photos show.
Some members of the community have called the sign racist, but the owner said that’s not the case.
“It was never to be racist, it’s not to be racist in my mind. For the people that’s read into it and taken it different ways, my apologies to you,” he told WTRF. “But that is my sign, that is my feelings and I will put that up there. That is a question if you read it right.”
Jerry Moore II, president of the NAACP’s Belmont County Chapter, said the sign is perpetuating false information and should be removed, WTOV reported.
“We actually all pay for welfare recipients to receive their benefits,” Moore told the outlet. “When you just take facts out of thin air and put them on a billboard and call them facts, when they are your opinions, that becomes a problem.”
According to economy news outlet Fortunly, the largest share of welfare recipients are white.
Several community members spoke in favor of the sign, saying that the owner has a right to free speech.
“Freedom of speech and his right to express his opinion! It goes both ways,” one Facebook user wrote.
“It’s a sad day when you don’t have freedom of speech because some crybabies don’t like hearing the truth. I will still patronize Mike’s tire,” wrote another.
“Leave him alone. It’s his business, his sign, and his thoughts,” a third wrote.
“So if it bothers you don’t support his business and move along,” wrote a fourth.
Others decried the sign as offensive.
“It’s disgusting. Sad to show even more proof that racism is alive and well in the Ohio Valley — right up the street from where I am raising my Black daughter,” one Facebook user wrote. “He should be ashamed.”
“Very unprofessional for a business owner to make a statement in that fashion regardless of what race you are,” wrote another. “People of ALL races have got government assistance at one point or another.”
“Trump supporter here, that sign is what makes the majority of us look bad,” a third wrote. “That’s so racist it’s unbelievable.”
“Nice way to turn away customers ….” wrote a fourth.
Moore questioned the owner’s motive in posting the sign.
“The sign was kind of specific as to how this gentlemen felt,” Moore told WTOV. “I’m not sure if he did it as a publicity stunt to boost his business or this is how he felt.”
The owner said he plans to take the sign down next week and replace it with one honoring veterans, WTRF reported.
*story by The Kansas City Star