A man’s viral reaction to a male student's prom dress has led to his dismissal as CEO of a Tennessee company and has inspired several celebrities to post messages of support to the student on social media.
According to WKRN-TV in Nashville, Tennessee, Dalton Stevens and his boyfriend, Jacob Geittman were taking photos at a local hotel on April 24 prior to Franklin High School’s prom. Stevens, a senior at Franklin, chose to wear a floor-length red dress to the dance.
“I was very confident,” Stevens told WKRN. “I knew that I felt beautiful, and I felt great.”
While the couple was hanging out at the hotel, a man later identified as Sam Johnson approached the teenagers. That’s when Geittman began recording video, which was later shared on several social media platforms.
In the expletive-filled video, Geittman and Stevens question why Johnson was criticizing Stevens’ decision to wear a dress. At one point, Johnson says Stevens looks “like an idiot.”
Warning: The video below contains explicit language.
had to re-upload the video, but story time on @jacobgeittmann2 page :)
“You can have your thoughts and opinions, [but] keep them to yourself,” Geittman told WKRN. “You don’t need to go up to a teenager, in public, on their prom night, and publicly shame and harass them for what they decided to wear.”
At one point in the video, Johnson appears to take a swipe at Geittman’s phone. Geittman later claimed that Johnson struck Stevens in that same motion.
“I’m sorry, I’m gorgeous,” Stevens said later in the video.
“Are you?” Johnson said.
The video went viral shortly after Geittman posted it to TikTok. Days later, on April 27, Johnson was terminated as the CEO of VisuWell, a telehealth medicine company based in Nashville.
“We unequivocally condemn the behavior exhibited by Sam Johnson in a recent video widely circulated on social media,” the company said in a statement. “After investigating the matter and speaking to individuals involved, the VisuWell Board of Directors has chosen to terminate Mr. Johnson from his position as CEO.”
Johnson later told the Associated Press that he confronted the teens because he thought they were being “obnoxious and profane," not because Stevens chose to wear a dress. Stevens and Geittman deny those accusations.
Several celebrities have come to Stevens' defense since last month’s incident. Comedienne Kathy Griffin called for Johnson’s removal as VisuWell CEO, and actor Billy Porter re-posted a TikTok video by Stevens on his Instagram page.
“I think clothing should just be taken as a piece of cloth and nothing more,” Stevens told WKRN. “Everybody should just wear what they want and shouldn’t be ashamed to wear anything because of societal standards.”