AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
In Statesville, N.C., the city has sued Camping World because its American flag was deemed too big. The city passed an ordinance designed in part to prevent displays of big Confederate flags, but the prohibition includes any big flag. That's angered the company's CEO and others who say that's un-American and unpatriotic, especially just before Memorial Day. From member station WFAE, Sarafina Wright has the story.
SARAFINA WRIGHT, BYLINE: 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.
TODD GLENN: Does my heart great to see that flag flying.
WRIGHT: 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. The big flag violates a law that restricts the sizes of all flags. 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.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: You should always think about our veterans and our flag.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: It's red, white and blue. It's 50 stars, 13 stripes. It's much more than that.
WRIGHT: Lemonis is also host of CNBC is "The Profit." He's started an online petition on change.org that has collected 193,000 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.
GLENN: The people that run Statesville need to grow up. Get as big as the flag is and maybe it will be a better country. This flag speaks wonders for the community here.
WRIGHT: 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-by-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.
STEVE JOHNSON: 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 to threaten his wife and said he knew where he lived. That should be condemned in the strongest terms.
WRIGHT: 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 $12,000 and growing every day. For NPR News, I'm Sarafina Wright in Charlotte.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.