A Georgia company behind racist t-shirts hyped on Facebook by Cherokee County Sheriff’s spokesperson Jay Baker received a coronavirus-related Paycheck Protection Program loan weeks later.
Deadline Apparel, LLC, which is owned by a former deputy sheriff from Cherokee County and hawked the t-shirts on its website, received $15,600.00 in May 2020. According to business records, the store, which promotes fully customizable gear, received the PPP loan after reporting that their 2019 expenses were approximately $74,880.
Baker, the law-enforcement official who was assailed after suggesting the horrific attacks in Georgia that killed eight—including six Asian women—on Tuesday were the result of a 21-year-old white man’s “really bad day,” promoted the racist shirts just weeks earlier.
Several photos on Baker’s page show the official was promoting T-shirts with the slogan “COVID-19 imported virus from CHY-NA.” The shirts, which until the company’s website went offline were being advertised by Deadline Apparel for $22, include a yellow biohazard symbol.
Deadline Apparel first came under fire after Facebook posts from Baker’s personal page suggested the official had obtained his shirts from the company.
The apparel brand did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment. But in several photos on Baker’s personal Facebook page, the sheriff’s spokesperson tags Deadline Apparel, promotes their website, and personally thanks the company’s founder while encouraging his followers to purchase the racist t-shirts.
There is only one Deadline Apparel LLC registered in the state of Georgia, and the information attached to the PPP loan matches that in the incorporation documents of the business owned by the former deputy. While the loan—which provides monetary support to allow businesses to keep their employees during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic—is relatively small, it was glaring given the company’s apparent willingness to produce racist products.
“The company has reported itself as a White male veteran-owned business, and employed at least four people during the applicable loan period,” read federal records spelling out the loan, adding that the total loan was given toward the paying employees “an estimated average yearly compensation of $18,720.”
Experts and advocates say the anti-Asian racism behind shirts like the ones Baker promoted has fueled a horrific surge in violence against Asian Americans—a threat starker than ever after Tuesday’s mass-shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlors. That a law-enforcement official involved in that very investigation has been connected to the same racism only made the situation more urgent.
“Place your order while they last,” Baker wrote with a smiley face on a March 30 photo that included the racist T-shirts.
In another April 2020 post, in which he mentions the Deadline Apparel website, Baker writes: “Love my shirt...Get yours while they last.”
Deadline Apparel was also selling a T-shirt that featured a bat spreading its wings alongside the words: “Eat less bats.” Behind the bat: an open white takeout box with a pair of red chopsticks inside with the phrase “No thank you” written at the top. The “Eat less bat” t-shirt was also sold on the company’s site for $22.
The store also appears to print shirts for the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office Honor Guard, a “ceremonial unit, all volunteers, who represent not only the Sheriff’s Office but also the county when participating in a variety of events,” according to a March 10 Instagram post.
The apparel company’s website and all social media platforms had been shut down or placed on private since Wednesday.
Authorities have said Robert Aaron Long, the suspect in this week’s massacre, insisted he was not intentionally targeting Asian people during his deadly rampage. But police say he targeted massage parlors and killed six Asian women, and the horrific acts could still be prosecuted as a hate crime.
“He was pretty much fed up and had been kind of at the end of his rope,” Baker said during the joint news conference with the Atlanta Police Department on Thursday. “Yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did.”