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American Flag Fight In Statesville Gaining National Attention

Camping World, Flag

In Statesville – there’s a big flap brewing over a big flag. The city has sued “Camping World” because its American flag is deemed too big. The city passed an ordinance designed, in part, to prevent displays of big Confederate flags. But the prohibition also includes any big flag. That has angered the company’s CEO and others who say that’s un-American and unpatriotic – especially just before Memorial Day.

Just off Interstate-77 in Statesville -- north of Charlotte -- a massive American flag waves in the air. It’s big. 40-by-80-feet. It’s on the property of Gander RV, which is owned by Camping World. The flag is a hit for customers like Todd Glenn.

“It does my heart great to see that flag flying.”

At dozens of locations around the country, Camping World is known for its big flags hoisted high above local interstates. But they’re not welcome in Statesville. The city sued Camping World seeking a fine of $50 a day going back to last October. Camping World CEO Marcus Lemonis has taken the fight public -- posting a video on Twitter that includes members of the military, veterans and his employees.

Lemonis is also host of CNBC’s The Profit. He started an online petition on Change.org that has collected 193-thousand signatures and counting.  

For Todd Glenn, a retired firefighter, he just doesn’t understand why a city would ever restrict the size of an American flag.

“The people who run Statesville needs to grow up. Get as big as the flag is and maybe it’ll be a better country. This flag speaks wonders for the community here.”

In 2015, Statesville passed its original flag restrictions and updates them occasionally.

The most recent came a year ago. The maximum size it now allows is 25 x 40 feet. But Camping World’s flag is much bigger than that.

The debate has roiled the community and drawn national news attention. Statesville Councilmember Steve Johnson says there should be no size restrictions -- and the pro-flag rhetoric is out of control.

“I received a phone call from a fellow city councilman last night who received a threatening email and a harassing phone call. And this person chose not just to threaten him, but his wife and said he knew where he lived. That should be condemned in the strongest terms.”

The Statesville City Attorney declined to comment as did Camping World officials. The company’s CEO says he won’t take the flag down. So far, Camping World’s fine is approaching 12-thousand dollars and growing every day. 

Sarafina Wright is the "All Things Considered" producer for WFAE 90.7 Charlotte’s NPR Source. Before coming to WFAE, she worked as a political correspondent for EBONY.com, staff writer at the Washington Informer and editor-in-chief of the WI Bridge in Washington, DC. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from Howard University. When she's not writing professionally, Sarafina can be found blogging at www.sarafinasaid.com or hanging out with her book club, Charlotte West.