A jewelry store in Massachusetts is facing backlash after putting up a billboard depicting a man proposing on a football field alongside the words, “If you’re going to take a knee this season, please have a ring in your hand!”

The billboard, put up by Garieri Jewelers on a New England highway, was reportedly received positively after being erected on Sept. 1, according to The Washington Post

Scott Garieri, the owner of the jewelry store, told the Post he intended for the advertisement to be a witty “play on words,” in reference to NFL players who choose to kneel in protest during the national anthem.

“The way that the football season was, everyone had a thing about taking the knee,” he said. Garieri added he and his daughter Alexandria Garieri, the store manager, came up with the “catchy” advertisement.


Garieri said reactions toward the billboard changed after a driver snapped a photo of the ad in Charlton, Mass., and shared it on Facebook, accusing it of being racist.

After that, Garieri said online users quickly began to rate his jewelry store, which has been family-owned since 1947, with one star. He claims many also threatened to vomit on his store’s showcases and urinate on the sidewalk outside the store. 

Garieri also said one person wrote “Alexandria why don’t you just kill yourself?”

“That’s when it started to get out of hand,” he said. 

Garieri said he didn’t give considerable thought to the reason why players kneel when designing the billboard.

“We’re a country store, we just try to do advertising in a way that’s affordable and brings in traffic,” he said. He did not say if he plans to remove the billboard.

On-field demonstrations began in 2016 with former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who rose to prominence after being the first player to take a knee during the national anthem to protest racial inequality in the U.S. Kaepernick has been targeted frequently by President TrumpDonald John TrumpRosenstein expected to leave DOJ next month: reports Allies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump States file lawsuit seeking to block Trump's national emergency declaration MORE and his base.

Criticism for the billboard comes the same week that Nike released its latest ad campaign featuring Kaepernick

In the new ad, Kaepernick says, “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything." He has remained unsigned for over a year after becoming the face of the protest movement.

Nike’s online sales appear to have surged in the week since it announced Kaepernick as the face of its latest ad campaign.