Greeley pizza shop owner apologizes for offensive ad featuring Pilgrim, Native American

GREELEY, Colo. -- A Greeley pizza shop owner has apologized to the community after his restaurant ran a Thanksgiving ad that many people saw as offensive.

Right Coast Pizza will stop running the ad that featured a Pilgrim woman offering a slice of pizza to a Native American.

"Sorry for the small pox, who wants slice of pepperoni?" the caption on the ad said.

Historical accounts say Native Americans were purposely given blankets infected with small pox in an effort to diminish their numbers.

Justin Vogel, the owner of Right Coast Pizza and Eli Corliss of Bandwagon Magazine, which developed and featured the ad, appeared at a meeting organized by the Northern Colorado Latino Foundation on Monday night.

"We extend our apologies to everyone who's seen this insensitive and ignorant ad," Corliss said.

Vogel then addressed the audience of community leaders, lawmakers and business owners saying he had been "oblivious" to the effect of such an ad and was deeply sorry.

Several speakers conveyed the hurt caused by the marginalization of minority groups, providing personal accounts of brushes with racism.

One man shared that he had been asked to repeat the word "sausage" several times while working by customers who found his accent amusing.  A school board member revealed that she had once been followed by staff when shopping in a store.

Vogel stood to speak twice, emphasizing that he did not mean to cause anyone pain in the community and was touched by the stories that were shared, "they talk about how you've hurt them, it really takes you down."

After making their apologies, Vogel and Corliss received a standing ovation and hugs from the audience.

"I  am accepting their apology because I know there's going to be positive change," said organizer Joe Molina of the Northern Colorado Latino Foundation.

Pam Bricker of Greeley's Downtown Development Authority applauded the effort to bring people together to discuss the issue.

She adds that it is not always easy to overcome division but it is important to continue the effort to find common ground.

"We have a long way to go not only in this community but communities all across the country," Bricker said.

Vogel told FOX31 that he is thankful to see the positive end result of the meeting,.

"It's good to know the community is still there despite things like this happening," Vogel said.

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