Sturbridge jewelry store under fire for controversial billboard

CHARLTON, Mass. — A small business in Sturbridge is under fire after putting up a billboard many are calling racist.

Garieri Jewelers set up an ad on a billboard along Route 20 in Charlton on Saturday depicting a young man down on one knee on a football field proposing to a woman.

The tag line in the ad reads, "If you're going to take a knee this season, please have a ring in your hand."

The store owner says it was a play on words surrounding the NFL player protest of kneeling during the national anthem.

"It was intended to be attention-getting," said Scott Garieri, the owner.

While Garieri hoped the billboard would get attention, he expected the type of attention it got.

"Someone saw it, pulled in off Route 20 and took a picture of it and then went off about how racist it is," said Garieri. "Then they started attacking us, they wanted to come in and vomit on the [jewelry] cases, they were going to urinate on our sidewalks."

One social media comment went as far as suggesting Garieri's daughter kill herself.

Coincidentally, Nike released their own controversial ad just days after the billboard went up. The ad, which features notable athlete Colin Kaepernick, the first NFL player to take a knee during the National Anthem in protest to police brutality, has a tag line that reads, "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."

Both Garieri and Nike's ads have reignited the debate on whether players should take a knee, which Garieri says he opposes.

"I'm a firm believer in respecting the country, respecting the flag, respecting the national anthem," said Garieri.

Mike Brady works near where the billboard is located. Brady says once he realized what is was referring to, he felt as though discussions on social justice should be taken more seriously.

"I have family members who fought at war and died at war, the national anthem is very scared," said Brady. "At the same time, I have a son who is biracial. I can certainly see the players' position on social issues need a lot more attention and how do we bring attention to it."

"It wasn't meant to be racist, business is business," said Garieri.

Garieri says the billboard is staying up because it's generate so much response it's worth the negative backlash.