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Did Anti-Ketchup Bias Lead to Singing Hot Dog Vendor's Firing?

By Brett Snider, Esq. on September 13, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Detroit Tigers' beloved anti-ketchup hot dog vendor was fired in early September, and fans of the man's mustard-only views have been left wondering why.

As The Detroit News reports, Charley Marcuse, also known as the Singing Hot Dog Man at Comerica Park, was fired after 15 years of service, with some Tigers fans speculating that the reason for his firing wasn't the singing, it was his staunch anti-ketchup policy.

Could Marcuse get fired for refusing to give fans ketchup for their dogs?

Mustard Only for Hot Dogs

Marcuse made a name for himself as the Singing Hot Dog Man during Detroit Tigers games because of his operatic style in belting out words like "hot dogs" and "beer" -- and also because of his adamant refusal to give customers ketchup for their hot dogs.

The News reports that Marcuse's anti-ketchup crusade did result in customers filing complaints, with some fans feeling "he got combative" if they asked for the inappropriate condiment.

Like most at-will employees, vendors like Marcuse can be fired for almost any non-discriminatory reason. Customer complaints can be as good a reason as any to get canned.

This recent termination doesn't leave Marcuse without options. Vendors at Comerica Park are unionized, reports the News, and the notorious mustard-loving merchant has already appealed his firing to his company's union.

First Amendment Need Not Apply

Fans of a mustard-only hot dog and personal freedoms have cried out in protest over even the thought of firing Marcuse for his abrasive views on hot dog toppings.

Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports' Hardball Talk gave a tongue-in-cheek nod (hopefully) to proclaiming condiment preference as one of "our freedoms in this country," and even included a nice Voltaire selfie.

But aside from general notions about our American rights to extol our beliefs proudly, don't think for a second that Marcuse's First Amendment rights to speech enter into the mix.

The First Amendment generally only prevents the government from restricting speech, so private companies have much more leeway in firing employees for their expression, even when they express their love of mustard... and disdain for ketchup.

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