Globe Editorial

Menino: Misreading the T-shirts

June 25, 2011

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There’s no city department regulating T-shirt slogans in Boston, but that hasn’t stopped Mayor Menino from taking on the job himself. But the next time the mayor weighs in on an issue involving teenage slang, he should consider consulting one of his younger staff members first.

During a stroll with his wife around the Back Bay last weekend, Menino came across a window display at Nike’s Newbury Street outpost featuring a handful of T-shirts with drug-themed wordplays. On one, the word “Dope’’ is printed over an illustration of a tipped-over prescription drug bottle. But instead of pills, skateboards, snowboards, and kayaks cascade out. Another shirt says, “Get high,’’ while another suggests people ‘F--k gravity.’

The mayor fired off an angry letter to Nike on Monday, admonishing the company for promoting drug use and urging the Back Bay store to remove the shirts from its windows. When Nike resisted, Menino floated the idea of a public protest.

But the T-shirts don’t promote drug use. They point out — in an admittedly edgy, profane way — that extreme sports and the adrenaline rush they provide should take the place of illegal substances in young people’s lives. That’s a message the mayor should want more young people to understand.