Six days before a college football player was arrested at San Francisco International Airport in a dispute that began when a US Airways employee asked him to pull up his sagging pants, a man who was wearing little but women's undergarments was allowed to fly the airline, a US Airways spokeswoman conceded Tuesday.
A photo of the scantily clad man was provided to The Chronicle by Jill Tarlow, a passenger on the June 9 flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Phoenix. Tarlow said other passengers had complained to airline workers before the plane boarded, but that employees had ignored those complaints.
US Airways spokeswoman Valerie Wunder confirmed she'd received the photo before last week's incident in San Francisco and had spoken to Tarlow, but said employees had been correct not to ask the man to cover himself.
"We don't have a dress code policy," Wunder said. "Obviously, if their private parts are exposed, that's not appropriate. ... So if they're not exposing their private parts, they're allowed to fly."
So, does that mean Deshon Marman, the University of New Mexico player yanked from an Albuquerque-bound flight June 15 at SFO, was displaying his private parts when his pajama pants sagged to mid-thigh level?
Wunder declined to comment on the incident directly. Police have said only that Marman's boxer shorts were exposed, and his attorney said surveillance video would prove Marman's skin had not been visible.
Police arrested Marman, 20, who grew up in San Francisco, after he allegedly refused an US Airways employee's request to pull up his pants to keep his underwear from showing. Marman's later refusal to comply with the pilot's orders to get up from his seat led to his arrest on suspicion of trespassing, battery and resisting arrest, police said. The San Mateo County district attorney has not determined whether he will charge Marman.
Marman's attorney, Joe O'Sullivan, said his client had been stereotyped by US Airways as a thug, and that the airline was guilty of racial discrimination for asking Marman to adjust his clothes. Marman is African American.
"It just shows the hypocrisy involved," O'Sullivan said after he viewed the photo of the cross-dressing passenger. "They let a drag queen board a flight and welcomed him with open arms. Employees didn't ask him to cover up. He didn't have to talk to the pilot. They didn't try to remove him from the plane -- and many people would find his attire repugnant."
O'Sullivan added, "A white man is allowed to fly in underwear without question, but my client was asked to pull up his pajama pants because they hung below his waist."
Tarlow, 40, who was returning home to Phoenix after helping her mother move, said she had been shocked when she noticed the older man in blue underwear and black stockings standing in the Fort Lauderdale terminal. Tarlow said the man had obliged when she asked to take his photo.
"No one would believe me if I didn't take his picture," Tarlow said. "It was unbelievable. ... And he loved it. He posed for me."
Wunder reiterated the airline's stance that Marman had not been removed from the US Airways flight last week because of his clothing, but because he had failed to comply with an employee's request.
"The root of the matter is, if you don't comply with the captain's requests," Wunder said, "the captain has the right to handle the issue because it's one of safety."