By Chuck Woodbury
If you are a regular reader of this newsletter, you know I am not Marcus Lemonis’ biggest fan. As the CEO of Camping World and the Good Sam Club he has turned the latter into a Camping World/Ganders Outdoor discount club, recently even removing the word RV from at least some of the club’s promotional messages. Today, boaters, anglers, hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts are invited to join. No RV required. Actually, no interest in RVs required.
Lemonis has been in the news lately because he refuses to take down an illegal American flag at his Gander Outdoors store in Statesville, North Carolina. The city is fining his company $50 a day for every day the oversized flag continues to fly. The fine has already exceeded $12,000.
The flag is 40 by 80 feet, about twice the size of what’s permitted. “There’s no question that I violated that ordinance,” Lemonis has said.
When Gail and I were traveling full-time in 2017 and 2018, sometimes when pulling into a new town we’d see a huge flag ahead. “Oh, there’s a Camping World,” we’d say. Lemonis didn’t need to fly a Camping World flag. The American flag did the job: “Below this flag lies a place where you can buy RV accessories and an RV.” That’s what Lemonis’ Stars and Stripes really means. It is, I must say, a very creative marketing technique, but not, I suggest, a testament to Mr. Lemonis’ patriotism.
Veterans, especially, have come to Lemonis’ support in Statesville, praising him for standing up to the city, ignoring the fact that in flying the illegal flag Lemonis is knowingly breaking the law. Others, myself included, see it as yet another Lemonis PR ploy. He knows full well whatever he says publicly can be manipulated to his advantage in today’s content-hungry media. He’s one shrewd businessman.
But here’s what I think: If he’s really patriotic, then he will continue to fly a big flag, but reduce it to a legal size of 25 x 40 feet. In America, in theory at least, we follow the law. Lemonis, a celebrity to many as TV’s “The Profit,” is not above the law. Many people who support his actions can’t quite put the idea of “patriotism” and “law-abiding” in the same thought.
I think the question is this: Does the size of a flag someone flies illustrate the degree of his or her patriotism? If my flag is bigger than yours does it mean I am more patriotic than you?
Lemonis says over and over that the big flag will remain, no matter what. If the city wants to put him in jail, he says he’ll go. That makes for a nice sound bite but Lemonis knows damn well he can easily weasel out of that pledge.
For now, he’s managed to generate a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of free publicity. I believe the idea of showing his patriotism by breaking the law sets a terrible example.
So, I say, continue to fly a big flag, just reduce it to legal size.
If you would like to express your opinion on this with the Statesville community, write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper.
Your comments are welcome here, of course. Keep ’em civil or our Lord of Comments will zap ’em into distant cyberspace.