On 18 May 2016, an image purportedly showing a Home Depot employee wearing a cap bearing the legend "America Was Never Great" cap was circulated via social media, with one of the first versions of the now-viral photograph being posted to Facebook by "Joey Carlino" with the message "A Home Depot in Staten Island. What a joke":
A Staten Island news source confirmed that the photograph was genuine:
Krystal Lake, 22, of St. George, was spotted wearing the controversial hat during her shift at Home Depot, located on Forest Avenue in Mariners Harbor.
"The point of the hat was to say America needs changing and improvement," Lake told the Advance. "I don't think it's a positive message to say, "Let's look to the past.'"
Lake said she awoke to a barrage of text messages, tweets and phone calls from friends and co-workers asking her if she had been checking her social media accounts. "Everyone kept asking me if I was on Facebook or Twitter, which I hadn't been," she said, "and then I saw how many people were sharing [the picture] and that it was going viral. "I was honestly shocked — I didn't expect any of this to happen."
Lake, a lifelong Staten Islander and student at the College of Staten Island, said this was the first and only time she had worn the hat to work, and that she was not reprimanded by any manager for the decision to wear it.
Lake, a Bernie Sanders supporter, said she has seen other employees wearing pro-Trump pins and pendants on their uniforms — yet no one has ever told them not to wear them.
"For the past two months, there have been a few people I work with wearing 'Vote for Trump' pins on their uniforms," she said. "But no one ever says anything to them."
When asked whether she intends to wear the hat again, Lake said, "Definitely."
"I feel it offended a lot of people because a lot of Trump supporters live in Staten Island," she said. "Trump is very rash and in your face, but when someone else has a message against him, his supporters can't take the criticisms."
Lake said she has received dozens of death threats on her social media accounts.
"People have been saying really racist things to me and that they're going to come and find me," she said, "and that what I said is disgraceful and I hate America — but I don't hate America.
"I know there are a lot of opportunities here," Lake added. "I just wish we would worry about making America better — not 'great again.'"
Home Depot responded to complaints by stating that store management had not noticed Lake wearing the hat or she would have been instructed to remove it immediately, and that the slogan on the cap did not reflect the viewpoint of Home Depot: