Italian restaurant draws social media ire for selling 'Black Olives Matter' merchandise

But thanks to the controversy, business is booming.

ALBEQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO: An Italian restaurant in New Mexico is coming under fire on social media for selling t-shirts and hats with the slogan "Black Olives Matter," mimicking "Black Lives Matter."

On Tuesday, "Black Olives Matter" became a trending topic on Twitter, with people criticizing the restaurant for making money from the merchandise. They say the restaurant is being insensitive to the Black Lives Matter movement, which is meant to call attention to police shootings of black individuals. Others say it’s only satire, a simple joke that people are taking too seriously.

It all started two weeks ago when Rick Camuglia, owner of Paisano’s Italian restaurant in Albuquerque, New Mexico, emblazoned his restaurant with the sign "Black Olives Matter." The sign was meant to advertise a new special: seared ahi tuna with black olive tapenade.

The restaurant turned the controversy into a promotional opportunity. Taking advantage of the media attention, the restaurant printed "Black Olives Matter" on T-shirts that are selling for $20 and hats selling for $25 online. 

The restaurant is well on its way to becoming infamous. 

On the other hand, people are also tweeting that the critics are being too sensitive; that the slogan is no more than a play on words and should be taken lightly.

One tweeter even calls the idea "genius" because of the "millions of dollars in free advertising" the restaurant is getting:

The free advertising is working; Camuglia told Fox News his business is booming. 

"Our phone has also been ringing off the hook with people making reservations. People are placing carry-out orders in the high hundreds," said Camuglia, "And they’re asking for black olives on everything. Black olives on the salad, ‘I’ll have extra black olives on my sausage sandwich’—we’ve had to order more from our supplier."

Camuglia told Fox News that he does not regret posting the sign.

"Our intention was never to offend or hurt anybody," he says, "But all of this just says a lot about the state of our society when you can’t even make a simple statement about a fruit without people attacking you. People may need to recalibrate their politically correct meter."

It’s not the first time the Black Lives Matter movement has seen its slogan altered and satirized. Earlier this month, White Marlin Marina in Ocean City, Maryland, designed T-shirts for the White Marlin Open fishing tournament. The shirts said "White Lives Matter" for white marlin and "Blue Lives Matter" for blue marlin. And last year, a barbershop in Norton, Massachusetts, attempted to drum up support for an animal shelter with a sign stating, "Black Labs Matter."

The latest controversy comes the day after Pew Research Center published a report on how social media users share and talk about race, with a focus on the social activity around the Black Lives Matter movement. The study found that black social media users (68%) are nearly twice as likely as white users (35%) to say they see race-related posts on social media. The study also found that the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was used more than 12 million times between July 2013 and March 2016.

This story first appeared on campaignlive.com.

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