San Diego hospital facing criticism for banning shirts that support officer battling cancer

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – Brett Byler is in the fight of his life. According to the family’s gofundme page, on February 16, 2020, Byler was found to have a 5.5cm brain tumor that grew and crossed the midline of his brain.

The Escondido Police Officer, former Marine and father three is now facing an uncertain future.

“My son has been sustained by the support and love from the community from the moment he was diagnosed,” Brett’s father Jim Byler said.

Two months ago, some of the Palomar Health ER staff designed a t-shirt to sell in support of his mounting medical costs.

“That t-shirt represented unified support in the community for Brett and his battle with cancer,” said Jim Byler. “Unfortunately it got mischaracterized to something it never was meant to be.”

The shirt shows a flag with a red, blue and white stripe alongside a family portrait of Byler with the words “no one fights alone.”

“All of a sudden there were complaints and then the email went out saying the shirt was basically banned and deemed offensive and racist,” Byler said.

The following is part of an email that was sent to ER hospital staff:

There have been a number of staff, physicians, patients, and visitors that have been offended by a shirt that has been worn by various ED staff.  The shirt has an upside down flag with a blue line running through it.

The local intent of this shirt was to demonstrate support for an ill police officer in our community. There is no doubt that the local intent and goal was to show our loving care and compassion for this officer…

The issue for those who have been offended by the shirt is one that has some basis in recent history:  The concept of the thin blue line through the flag appears to have an origin that was support of our amazing police agency colleagues across the nation.    Then this depiction of the flag morphed into something quite different, and it was adopted by groups that may have an agenda which has nothing to do with supporting our police officers, and one that is in fact, extremely offensive to many persons.

It is for this reason a decision has been made asking  that staff cease wearing this shirt to work as part of your official attire…

Thin Blue Line USA says this specific flag is a show of support for officers who risk their lives. However, some associate it with a movement formed against black lives matter and feel it represents hate.

The family says it is obvious by their story and what they represent, that hate is not what the shirt represents. They plan to continue fighting to have their story and voices shared in support of Brett.

“We are going to fight that and make sure that people understand people know this is a positive unifying message. Not just for my son who is suffering cancer but all cancer patients,” Byler said.

The hospital will encourage the selling of the shirt even if staff cannot wear it during their shift. You can support the Byler family or order a shirt by clicking here:

Categories: Local San Diego News