A Tennessee hat store is apologizing after backlash over the store’s sale of yellow Star of David patches with the words “Not Vaccinated” emblazoned on them, a design that echoes the yellow Stars of David that Nazis forced Jews to wear.
The Nashville store, hatWRKS, owned by Gigi Gaskins, issued an apology per an Instagram post on Saturday, saying no disrespect was intended by selling the Star of David badges.
“In NO WAY did I intend to trivialize the Star of David or disrespect what happened to millions of people,” Gaskins wrote in her apology Instagram post.
“That is not who I am & what I stand for. My intent was not to exploit or make a profit. My hope was to share my genuine concern & fear, and to do all that I can to make sure that nothing like that ever happens again. I sincerely apologize for any insensitivity,” Gaskins wrote.
The no longer active Instagram post that sparked the controversy featured a picture of Gaskins sporting the Star of David patch and said “trucker caps” with the same design would also be available.
And here’s the scene at Hatworks/Hateworks today… pic.twitter.com/7LorTIvIKR
— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) May 29, 2021
After the controversial Instagram post, protesters gathered outside the store to express their disapproval. Some brought signs with a blown-up version of the photo of Gaskin wearing the Star of David patch, and other demonstrators brought a banner reading, “NO NAZIS IN NASHVILLE.”
The store initially appeared to defend the design of the Star of David patch, writing in one Instagram post, “all unvaccinated people will be segregated from society, marked & must wear a mask. what comes next?”
“There is a historical parallel to fascism to be drawn,” hatWRKS wrote in the post.
Several companies pulled their products from hatWRKS following the controversy, including apparel company Stetson, which announced that it and its distribution partners would no longer sell Stetson products at the store.
“As a result of the offensive content and opinions shared by HatWRKS in Nashville, Stetson and our distribution partners will cease the sale of all Stetson products,” Stetson said in a tweet.
Hat company Goorin Bros originally said it was “investigating internally what actions can be taken and how quickly.”
Later, owner and president Ben Goorin said the company would end its distribution with hatWRKS “effective immediately,” saying the company is “horrified” by the badge.
“The Jewish badge was a key element used by Nazis beginning in 1939 who planned to persecute and eventually murder millions of Jews. They used the badge to humiliate, segregate, and control the movement of all Jews over seven years old,” Goorin wrote in an Instagram post.
“To make a mockery of the Holocaust in any form is unacceptable and completely insensitive. We are looking at all options to fix and address this unfortunate circumstance,” he wrote.
Kangol Headwear issued a similar statement, announcing that they gave Gaskins a “chance to change,” but “her further posts indicate to us that she is not sincere in her apology.”
The company added that it is “permanently terminating” hatWRKS Nashville as a customer of the Kangol Headwear brand “effective immediately.”