Black Olives Matter: New Mexico Restaurant In Hot Water For Poorly-Timed Pun On Billboard

A New Mexico restaurateur has served himself up a firestorm on social media for a sign that reads “Black Olives Matter” — a play on the phrase “Black Lives Matter” — that some have deemed offensive.

As KOB (Albuquerque) reports, Rick Camuglia, owner of Paisano’s Restaurant, needed a clever way to advertise his latest special: pan-seared ahi tuna with a black olive tapenade relish. Realizing that tapenade is made of black olives, Camuglia decided to go for the obvious pun.

“We put up what we thought was a cute play on words, which we do commonly here at the restaurant.”

In a post that has since been removed, Camuglia put a picture of the sign up on the restaurant’s Facebook page. Not unlike tapenade itself, news of the controversial sign “spread” from there. Comments poured in from as far away as New Zealand, with phrases like “tasteless,” “insensitive,” and “f*****g disgusting” dominating the discussion.

“Monique Henry: I love a good joke, but there are things that you just don’t joke about. You are probably one of the racist people that doesn’t care if you see black people murdered? Sounds like it to me. I hope the restaurant is named and shamed and loses business.”

Although the comments on the sign were almost overwhelmingly negative, at least a few saw the humor in it.

“Gerry Dallas: I’m black and I have NO problem with the sign.”

Besides drawing criticism on social media, it seems that some people even decided to call the restaurant directly. Camuglia says he’s received phone calls calling him a racist.

Eventually, the backlash drove Camuglia to get rid of the sign and replace it with another, more mundane one.

Black Olives Matter
New Mexico restaurateur Rick Camuglia replaced the sign reading "Black Olives Matter" with this one. [Image via Facebook]

Even though Camuglia has taken down the controversial sign, he refuses to apologize for it.

“I think it shows an interesting state of affairs of where our country is that people, first of all, can be offended by a statement about a vegetable. Black olives matter, and it does matter in our tapenade.”

In a follow-up post on Facebook, Camuglia noted that he and his crew had received an overwhelming outpouring of support. Several customers, Camuglia noted, ordered extra black olives, so much so that they ran out and had to order more.

This is not the first time that a business has drawn outrage over a sign that rubbed some the wrong way.

Back in December, 2014, according to this Inquisitr report, at least two bars in St. Joseph, Missouri, offered a so-called “Michael Brown Special: Six Shots for $10.” Michael Brown, you may remember, was the unarmed black teenager who was shot and killed by white police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown’s death led to weeks of protests, sometimes violent, in the St. Louis suburb, and was one of the first major events associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Similarly, in May of this year, New Orleans restaurateur Jimmy Collings, owner of The Shimmy Shack, posted a joke on his sign, invoking racial stereotypes and using a word that some consider offensive, according to the New Orleans Advocate.

“What time does a China man go to the dentist? Tooth a hurty!”

Similarly, in 2014, according to CBS News, the Hacienda restaurant in South Bend, Indiana, drew backlash for a sign promoting a new mixed drink. The sign, which showed a glass containing a mixed drink, referenced the 1978 Jonestown massacre in Guyana, where 900 cultists committed mass suicide by drinking poisoned Kool-Aid.

“We’re like a cult with better Kool-Aid. To die for!”

Do you find the “Black Olives Matter” sign offensive?

[Image via Shutterstock/Valentyn Volkov]