AKRON, Ohio (WJW) — An Aurora man claims he was forced off a JetBlue flight and stranded in Florida for exercising his political speech.
While Ryan Salo was on a March 6, 2022 return flight from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Cleveland, a flight attendant “demanded” Salo remove his face mask, which read “Let’s Go Brandon,” according to a new civil lawsuit filed against the airline in federal court, alleging constitutional violations.
The crewmember said the mask violated airline prohibitions against clothing that is “lewd, obscene, and patently offensive.”
Salo removed the mask and used a mask provided by the airline, according the complaint. But he was still removed from the flight by uniformed crewmembers, “since Defendants found the political speech mask — not Salo — to be disorderly abusive, offensive, threatening, intimidating, and violent,” it reads.
The interaction was recorded and went viral on social media, according to the complaint.
“I wore the political speech mask as the political statement that I am unhappy with the direction our Nation is heading under President Biden and this political statement was both known and understood by JetBlue,” Salo is quoted in a news release from his attorneys.
The lawsuit argues Salo’s statement was not obscene or offensive. But the statement is a reference to a chant that includes obscenity pointed at President Joe Biden. The lawsuit cites a 2021 Washington Post article in explanation:
“The anti-President Biden mantra ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ has morphed from an inside joke among some conservatives to virtually an unofficial motto of the Republican Party, a way to insult the administration, voice anger about its tenure and signal irritation with the media.”
JetBlue released a statement for a Feb. 3 article by Daily Caller:
“Our crewmembers are committed to ensuring our customers are safe and comfortable and often must make proactive decisions to avoid issues once airborne. The customer in this incident was ultimately asked to deplane not because of his face mask, but his behavior toward our crewmembers. We are currently investigating this incident.”
But following its own investigation, the company later admitted that Salo did nothing wrong, according to the complaint.
FOX 8 News has reached out to JetBlue for a response.
The lawsuit brings more than a dozen claims against the airline, including constitutional violations of privacy, unreasonable seizure and due process, and for false imprisonment, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and others. It calls for damages in excess of $75,000.
“I am fighting to stop JetBlue from suppressing our political speech,” said Salo. “I am also fighting to force JetBlue to change its policies and procedures to ensure that all JetBlue crewmembers cease and desist from trampling upon the rights of those patriotic passengers who hold political opinions different from the suppressive opinions held by JetBlue.”