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Conservatives defend Chris Pratt for wearing 'Don't Tread On Me' T-shirt

Conservatives are defending actor Chris Pratt for donning a T-shirt with the Revolutionary War-era "Don't Tread on Me" flag after the Hollywood star drew backlash from social media users who claim the symbol has white supremacist ties.

The shirt, which shows the American flag with a coiled rattlesnake and the phrase "Don't Tread on Me," references the Gadsden flag, created by Continental Army Gen. Christopher Gadsden in the 18th century. The flag rose to prominence during the American Revolution as U.S. colonists looking to declare independence from Great Britain adopted the phrase. 

The symbol has since been used by the U.S. men's soccer team and some libertarian groups; it has also been picked up by the Tea Party, gun rights groups and some far-right organizations. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has labeled the symbol as "sometimes interpreted to convey racially-tinged messages in some contexts," Yahoo Movies UK reported.

In 2016, the EEOC said of the symbol, "It is clear that the Gadsden Flag originated in the Revolutionary War in a non-racial context," after a Postal Service employee contended that a colleague wearing a hat with the symbol amounted to racial harassment.

Yahoo reported that the shirt prompted criticism that Pratt was promoting white supremacy. Only a handful of users raised such concerns, according to The Washington Post, some of whom appeared to delete their initial criticisms. 

Conservatives on Twitter fired back that the controversy was manufactured and the symbol misunderstood.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro tweeted Tuesday that criticism toward Pratt is "pure idiocy," adding that "not every symbol of the early republic is a white supremacist symbol, unless you are a moron."

Another conservative commentator, Steven Crowder, denounced the backlash as "next level stupid." 

Erick Erickson, a conservative blogger, wrote in an article published Wednesday that "I'm noticing more and more that progressives are claiming anything Neo-Nazis have tried to co-opt is somehow immediately bad."

"The Betsy Ross flag, the Gadsden flag, the American flag itself, etc. are all immediately deemed bad," he wrote. "It seems vastly more about a convenient way to cast aside American symbols than actually about bad people trying to steal the symbols of liberty for themselves."

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