The incident added fuel to the ongoing anti-racism conversation in the United States and brought up reminders of Georgia’s own racist history of white people lynching Black people.
The video appears to have been originally posted on Snapchat, but it triggered outrage after it was shared to other social media channels.
The clip shows one young man helping another put a noose made from bread dough around his neck. Two other employees, including the cameraperson, recorded the incident on their phones.
In the video, one employee holds up the noose while another puts it over his head and turns to face the third person. All three individuals in the shot are white and appear to be wearing Jimmy John’s uniforms and aprons. They can be heard giggling throughout the 16-second clip, which has a star-spangled “Happy 4th of July” banner superimposed over it.
The individual with the noose over his neck can be seen grinning widely and laughing. The other two individuals are masked.
The person holding his phone can be heard pronouncing a tongue-in-cheek “sentence” on the employee in the noose, although his words are hard to make out.
“Jimmy (unclear), you have disrespected our (unclear), now you are set to die,” he says.
The clip sparked accusations of racism and prompted many users to say they’d never visit Jimmy John’s again.
“Look at the DETAILS in the damn noose dough,” wrote user @napkingcolejr, who was one of many people to respond to the video in disgust on Twitter.
Jimmy John’s replied to several of the clips on Twitter to say that four employees had been “terminated” as a result of the incident. The employees have not been identified.
“We have zero tolerance for racism or discrimination in any form,” the company said. “The franchisee has taken immediate action and the employees have been terminated. The actions seen in this video are completely unacceptable and do not represent the Jimmy John’s brand.”
Remaining staff at the store will go through training “to help prevent anything like this from ever happening again,” Jimmy John’s added in a statement on Monday.
It’s the second time in recent days that a restaurant chain has terminated workers for pulling a racist prank. A Little Caesar’s in Ohio fired two employees last month for creating a pizza with pepperonis in the shape of a swastika on it.
The racist restaurant antics come at a moment of nationwide protests against anti-Black racism and police brutality. The movement has also faced a backlash among some groups in the country, including white supremacists.
U.S. President Donald Trump has dismissed the protesters as “thugs” after they toppled several statues of historically racist figures from the Confederacy. Trump has also gone after Bubba Wallace, the Black NASCAR driver whom the sport rallied around after he thought he found a noose in his garage.
The anti-protests broke out after the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis in late May. The protesters have been demanding justice for several similar incidents, including the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, Ga., last month, and the killing of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, Ga., in February.
Jimmy John’s founder Jimmy John Liautaud has publicly supported Trump and donated to his campaign. He was named to a White House economic advisory council back in April when the Trump administration first started pushing to reopen the economy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Liautuad sold his stake in Jimmy John’s in 2019 and is no longer the chairman of the company.