RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The man known as television’s “The Profit” says he’ll go to jail rather than bow to a lawsuit and remove a huge American flag flying over one of his company’s recreational vehicle stores.
The flag in question, which measures 40 feet by 80 feet (12 meters by 24 meters) on a 130-foot flagpole, is at Gander RV in Statesville, North Carolina. The city of Statesville is suing the company because city code limits flags to 25 feet by 40 feet (7.6 meters by 12 meters).
Businessman Marcus Lemonis, star of CNBC’s reality television show “The Profit,” is chief executive officer of Camping World, which owns Gander.
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Lemonis told The Associated Press he understands that Gander RV isn’t complying with the city’s ordinance — but he said the flag stays even if he’s jailed for contempt of court.
And his attorneys, he said, have told him that that’s a real possibility.
“If that is the result, I’m still not taking the flag down,” Lemonis said.
Even if lands in jail? “Most definitely,” he said. “I would prefer not to. It’s not a super-favorable outcome. But that’s how big a line in the sand this is for me.”
His attorneys planned to file a response Wednesday or Thursday, he said. He plans to visit Gander RV in Statesville on Thursday afternoon.
Statesville, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Charlotte, sued over the flag earlier this month and asked the court to order Gander RV to comply with the ordinance. Meanwhile, the company faces fines of $50 a day. They date to October 2018, when the city says it advised Camping World that the company would be fined until the flag is replaced with a smaller one.
A city spokeswoman said no one was available Wednesday to discuss the flag.
Social media posts are trending in Lemonis’ favor with comments such as one noting that Lemonis is an immigrant and U.S. citizen and saying he “has more pride in America and the flag than the city of Statesvilles’ representatives.”
Lemonis, who was born in Lebanon and adopted by American parents, said some people have told him on the phone that he should leave the U.S. “You’re not from here; you don’t follow our laws; get out of our country,” he said, quoting the callers. “People have opinions.”
Several people tweeted that they believe the controversy is really a marketing ploy.
Gander’s original permit application, filed in June 2018, said it was erecting a 40-foot-25-foot flag, which complied with the city code. In September 2018, Camping World informed the city of the flag’s actual, larger dimensions, the city said in a statement.
As “The Profit” on TV, Lemonis invests in failing businesses and tries to turn them around. Regardless of the amount of his investment, he always tells the owners that he’s “100 percent in charge.”
Lemonis said his love of big flags dates to his childhood in south Florida, where he says his family flew flags at car dealerships they owned. “The flag was a very big symbol,” he said.
Now that’s he’s an adult with his own stores, “if there is a way to put up a bigger pole, a bigger flag, we will do it,” he said.
Follow Martha Waggoner on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc