Hollywood actor and outspoken outdoor enthusiast Chris Pratt woke up on Tuesday to an article linking the “Guardians of the Galaxy” star to both gun enthusiasts and racists. Yahoo Movies UK posted an image of Pratt wearing a t-shirt depicting a modified Gadsden flag, and the accompanying article claimed that the flag is both a symbol of “gun-toting supporters of the Second Amendment” and is meant to convey “racially-tinged messages.”
“Although it is one of the symbols and flags used by the U.S. Men’s Soccer Team, Metallica, as well as some libertarian groups, over the years the flag has been adopted by Far Right political groups like the Tea Party, as well as gun-toting supporters of the Second Amendment,” read the original piece.
“It has therefore become a symbol of more conservative and far right individuals and, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of the US, it also is ‘sometimes interpreted to convey racially-tinged messages in some contexts.’”
To justify the story as newsworthy, the author embedded tweets from three or four unverified Twitter users expressing outrage at Pratt’s shirt choice.
Tim Byrnes, for example, who has a grand total of 601 followers, somehow warranted inclusion in this bombshell report.
I like him, but all these small things about his politics makes me wonder when he’ll say something transphobic, tank his career, and do the full heel-turn into a Fox commentator https://t.co/Emfzd02GmK— Tim Byrnes (@timbyrnes89) July 16, 2019
The story quickly faced criticism, and not only from Pratt’s lawyers.
Jonah Goldberg, former Senior Editor at the conservative outlet National Review, pointed out the non-racial history of the Gadsden flag.
Shame on @Yahoo for this trash. A handful of dumb twitter comments isn’t a news story you click-baiting parasites. There nothing white supremacist about that T-shirt.— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) July 17, 2019
It’s like everyone wants to be stupid and make everything worse. https://t.co/TVNeLUGUAc
Even some less conservative voices chimed in. Washington Post senior political reporter Aaron Blake wrote in an op-ed, “The media took a bold, largely unprecedented step this week to call Trump’s tweets ‘racist.’ Then Yahoo News did its best to undermine the whole exercise.”
The current version of the article has removed the paragraph about racism and no longer mentions white supremacism. The retraction at the top reads, “This article was updated on 17 July with the initial headline, ’Chris Pratt criticised for ‘white supremacist’ T-shirt’ being amended to ‘Chris Pratt criticised for T-shirt choice.’ References to White Supremacism in this article have been removed.”
Pratt has largely stayed away from politics during his rise from supporting actor in Parks and Recreation to A-list celebrity. But while he rarely makes openly political statements, he isn’t shy about his love of hunting, shooting, and the outdoors, hobbies that have sparked criticism among Hollywood types.
A 2018 TV Guide article, for example, takes issue with Pratt’s “problematic aspects of his life offscreen.” TV Guide includes Pratt’s “love of hunting” at the top of this list and criticized the “enthusiastic tone he took when speaking about ‘eating fresh farm-to-table lamb.’”
Behind some of the criticism is a 2012 interview Pratt gave with Outdoor Life in which he describes the reasons he likes to hunt, his favorite rifles, and his dream trophy room. The entire interview is worth a read, but here’s an excerpt:
It’s true that there aren’t a ton of hunters in Hollywood. That being said, the people I’ve talked to about it are actually fascinated with the subject. I think I’ve changed a few minds regarding the sport. It’s pretty incredible how little people actually know about hunting. Most people don’t even realize there are seasons or tags. They don’t understand the regulations or conservation benefits of hunting. I get a lot of, “Well as long as you eat the meat, I don’t care.” I have to be honest with them though. My passion for hunting is not simply the result of a need to feed myself. There’s grocery stores for that! I’m not eating ground hog or coyote! Sometimes people don’t understand and I don’t waste my breath trying to explain it. Either you get it or you don’t. But for the most part people aren’t judgmental about it. We just disagree and move on.
The Gadsden flag is named after American general and politician Christopher Gadsden (1724–1805), who designed it in 1775 during the American Revolution. It was used by the Continental Marines as an early motto flag. The original flag featured a yellow background with the snake and text depicted on Pratt’s shirt.