Spirit Airlines has never been one to shy away from a joke. But the company's latest campaign, which riffs on a hazing scandal that has engulfed the Miami Dolphins, has critics saying it's in the wrong spirit.
The ad in question features a downcast businessman sitting on the floor of what looks to be an airport. With one hand, he supports his head, which is wrapped in a helmet featuring the Miami Dolphins colors (aqua-green and orange). A block of text to his immediate left reads (again in the Dolphins' colors), "Don't be bullied by high fares. Fly incognito out of Florida or any place for that matter."
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The last line is a clear reference to Richie Incognito, a Miami Dolphins guard who has been indefinitely suspended from the team following reports of his bullying former teammate Jonathan Martin. Incognito left Miami on a flight to Los Angeles on Friday, Nov. 8, the same day Spirit Airlines released the ad.
Critics have been quick to label the ad humorless, calling out Spirit for making light of the issue.
"It's silly, and it's very cavalier on their part to take a subject that's so serious and effects [sic] so many families and children and to make that part of their humor and part of their marketing," Josh Bernard, who runs TheBullyExpert.com, told Miami's 7News. "I think it's just bad taste."
"As with many of our sales, we take a thought-provoking tongue-in-cheek look at a recent news events and the related media reaction," a Spirit Airlines spokesperson said in an emailed statement to The Huffington Post. "We do not condone bullying."
In 2010, the company mocked the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast, with a campaign featuring pictures of bikini-clad, lotioned-up women by the ocean. The tagline: "Check out the oil on our beaches." Sunscreen bottles in the photos were branded "Best Protection," with the "B" and "P" of each word colored yellow, similar to the logo for British Petroleum.
The company ultimately pulled the ad and issued an apology.
This article has been updated with a statement from Spirit Airlines.