A police corporal in Indiana upset over the Notre Dame women’s basketball team wearing “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts to show support for Eric Garner’s family has designed a shirt in response. Corporal Jason Barthel, who works for the Mishawaka Police Department, designed a shirt the reads “Breathe Easy — Don’t Break The Law” and is selling the shirt through South Bend Uniform Company, which owns. On December 14th, Barthel announced the shirt was for sale on the company’s Facebook page. Shortly after, the post went viral and attracted a lot of negative comments.
Notre Dame wore the shirts on Saturday before their game with Michigan. In doing so, they were the first women’s college team to wear the protest shirts. The movement among athletes started in earnest a week prior when Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose donned the shirt before a game, days after a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s death. After that a handful of NFL players either wore shirts or wrote messages on their uniforms showing solidarity with Garner’s family and protesters. Since that time, a number of college and professional athletes have shown support for the protest movement.
Barthel told a local news station, FOX28, that he just wanted to make the shirt to give another side of the story, especially since athletes were showing support for the protests over the death of Garner. He stated that he only “intended [it] to be a uniting and positive thing, not to divide.” However, he did acknowledge that he had received a mixed reaction (an understatement) to the shirt. Due to that reaction, he posted an explanation on the company’s Facebook page.
Let’s be totally honest, OK? This is a heartless and stupid shirt. When Barthel says he is not trying to “divide” with this shirt, he is completely full of crap. This isn’t about showing “both sides” of the debate. This is about playing to a certain demographic and letting them know, with a wink, that you are totally with them. Therefore, why not just make fun of a dying man’s last words, which were incidentally caught on video for the world to see, and twist them around for a ‘pro-cop’ t-shirt? No harm in that, right?