JetBlue was forced to apologize last week after featuring activist Assata Shakur as part of a Black History Month display at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
The airline removed the poster last month after images of the display honoring Shakur appeared on social media, sparking outrage among users who slammed the outline for glorifying a “convicted cop killer,” FOX 29 Philadelphia reported.
“The intention was always to unite our crewmembers and customers around the importance of Black History Month,” a JetBlue spokesperson said in a statement. “We apologize for any offense the poster may have caused.”
The tribute featuring Shakur, whose legal name is Joanne Chesimard, stood in the Terminal 5 exhibit for 21 days before a flyer noticed the bullet points describing the now 71–year–old’s prominence in history, according to the right-leaning tabloid The New York Post, which first reported the faux pas.
“Became the first woman to be placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list after escaping to Cuba from prison where she was serving a life sentence for the 1973 murder of a police officer,” one of the bullet points read.
Shakur, who is also the godmother of late rapper Tupac Shakur, became public enemy number 1 for her alleged role in the fatal shooting of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster on the New Jersey Turnpike. She was convicted in 1973, but escaped prison in 1979 and fled to Cuba where she remains under political asylum.
The poster also described Shakur as an activist and member of the Black Panther Party well known for her protests against racism, as well as her role in the Black Liberation Army of the 1970s. It went on to state that, “Many people believe Shakur to be a political champion who is innocent of the criminal accusation against her.”
In a statement to the Post, JetBlue officials said the posters were part of a “ready-made batch of posters celebrating Black History Month” that it had purchased from a third-party vendor. The airline said it “immediately” removed the tribute after flyer Jen Muzio took a photo and posted it to Twitter.
“@JetBlue Rumor has it that you are celebrating Black History month at LGA by celebrating Assata Shakur? She is a convicted cop killer. Please tell me this is not true,” Muzio’s tweet read. Muzio initially thought the tribute was at LaGuardia Airport but later clarified that it was at JFK.
Many users shared her outrage.
“WTH ? If this is true, I’ll go back to flying United,” one person commented.
“It’s a terrible mistake, but don’t blame all of
@JetBlue,” another chimed in. “They do fly officers around the country for free to attend fallen officers funerals…some dumb scumbag thought it was a good idea and that person should be fired, legit fired.”
One user offered a different take, writing, “It would be nice if we can have an honest conversation about American history. Like the FBI’s plot against MLK. Or police across the country, especially Late 19th – mid 20th century terrorized black Americans. That’s why some support Assata Shakur.”
“Regardless of any one point in Ms Shakur’s life, she was an important part of history during that time,” another argued, rationalizing her feature in the display.
Shakur remains a fugitive of the law, and the FBI is offering a $2 million reward for her return. President Donald Trump demanded her extradition back to the U.S. last year.