TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - An Orlando-based company fired an employee whose racist social media post showed a lynching of Florida State University football coach Willie Taggart, the Tallahassee Democrat reported Monday.
Hilton Grand Vacations announced the employee’s firing after the image that was posted on Facebook sparked outrage on social media, the newspaper reported. It also prompted a formal investigation by Second Judicial Circuit State Attorney Jack Campbell.
Originally the company suspended the employee, but it terminated his employment by midafternoon Monday.
"Our concern regarding this situation has been a top priority," Hilton Grand Vacations spokeswoman Lauren George told the Democrat. "The person responsible for posting this information has been terminated. His behavior was in violation of multiple company policies and the furthest example from being a reflection of our company’s values."
The photoshopped picture, posted after the Seminoles’ 41-14 loss to archrival Florida on Saturday, showed Taggart’s head superimposed over a photo of a man hanging from a noose, WCTV reported. The caption read, "Believe in something even if it means sacrificing your rep," along with the hashtags #JustDoIt and #FireTaggart, referring to the recent Nike ad campaign featuring former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Taggart, the first black head football coach in Florida State’s history, went 5-7 in his first year in Tallahassee. It was the first losing season for the Seminoles since 1976 and ended an NCAA record 36-year streak of bowl game appearances.
George did not reveal the employee’s name, citing confidentiality, the Democrat reported. The post was linked to a social media account of a man identified as Tom Shand, the newspaper reported.
Florida State President John Thrasher condemned the social media post in a statement, which FSU announced via Twitter.
"A recent racist social media post aimed at our football coach is ignorant and despicable," Thrasher wrote. "I speak for the entire FSU community in expressing our disgust and extreme disappointment, and I am glad the state attorney is investigating.
Campbell said his office was investigating the Facebook post, but is proceeding slowly.
“It’s hard for me to prosecute a Facebook post,” Campbell told the Democrat. “That’s why we’re working with our law enforcement partners to find out what the true facts are. Then I can make a determination of what charges are appropriate.”
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