KENTWOOD, Mich. (WOOD) — Victor Murdock wears his American Legion vest proudly, honoring his father, a U.S. Navy veteran, as a member of the Sons of The American Legion.
“It’s just a good group of guys that want to raise awareness for PTSD, fallen veterans, for the ones that didn’t come back, even for those who did come back and are dealing with situations they never got over,” explained Murdock, the assistant director of American Legion Post 179 in Grandville.
The vest is one way Murdock and other members convey their message. After all, they say, there are few things that define American pride more than the flag and the eagle featured on the vest.
“It says we believe in America. We believe in our troops. We support our veterans,” Murdock said.
So imagine his surprise when he and another Sons of The American Legion member were told the patches on their vests could be misconstrued as gang symbols.
It happened Saturday night at the Dave & Buster’s location on 28th Street across from the Shops at CenterPoint. As the two men and their wives waited for a table, the manager informed them of a policy against motorcycle vests bearing patches and asked the men to turn their vests inside out.
They chose to leave instead.
“It’s ridiculous. I was blown away,” Murdock said. “Probably one of the first times in my life I noticed right off the bat I was being discriminated against. ”
Monday, the restaurant manager told 24 Hour News 8 that he wasn’t allowed to speak on camera, but his bosses at Dave & Buster’s corporate headquarters in Dallas confirmed the policy.
“We are extremely grateful to all of our active military members and veterans and are honored to have them as valued guests in any of our locations,” April Spearman, the vice president for marketing for Dave & Buster’s, wrote in a statement. “Though we understand that the American Legion promotes a positive mission, for consistency reasons we cannot allow motorcycle jackets displaying patches or rockers.”
In a followup email to 24 Hour News 8, Spearman added that Dave & Buster’s would have also allowed the men to leave their vests at coat check, but that they left before the manager could give them that option.
While Dave & Buster’s said it appreciates their business, Murdock is not sure how much business the restaurant chain will get once vets and the people who support them find out about the policy.
“I get that they don’t want gangs, violent groups, or organizations in there,” Murdock said. “But anyone who’s anyone knows what the American Legion stands for.”
The full statement from Spearman:
“We are extremely grateful to all of our active military members and veterans and are honored to have them as valued guests in any of our locations.
“Our dress code, which prohibits evidence of gang affiliation, is in place to ensure that everyone is able to enjoy themselves in a fun and safe environment. Though we understand that the American Legion promotes a positive mission, for consistency reasons we cannot allow motorcycle jackets displaying patches or rockers. Our policies are in no way meant to be disrespectful and we apologize for any frustration this may have caused.
“In addition, please know that this group was not asked to leave, but to simply turn their jackets inside out. Again, we apologize for any misunderstanding.”