Blame it all on the pink shirt

By Rod Haxton, editor

Earlier this week, Gov. Sam Brownback had a high level meeting with members of his administration.

“I suppose most of you saw the Wichita State-KU basketball game over the weekend,” said the governor in his opening comments.

Everyone around the table nodded their heads.

“And I suppose that many of you heard the reaction from the crowd when they showed me on the jumbo screen?” he asked.

Those gathered looked a little nervously at each other and again confirmed they had.

“But, Mr. Governor, I wouldn’t . . . .” a cabinet official started to say before he was interrupted by Brownback.

“Before anyone says anything, let me say right now that I’ve never been so embarrassed in my entire life as I was at that moment when I saw how Kansans, and by that you know I mean mainly those from Lawrence, treated my wife,” Brownback said.

There was awkward silence around the table before someone had the courage to ask, “Your wife? Exactly what do you mean, sir?”

“Surely you know that it was my wife who suggested I wear a pink shirt under my t-shirt. I was torn between wearing a light pastel or perhaps even a light purple just to add a touch of K-State into the wardrobe, but Mary suggested the pink shirt. Call it divine intervention if you will, but I went with it. You can’t imagine what it was like to hear so many people booing during the game about my fashion choice. I had to spend the entire flight back home calming Mary down and reaffirming that I still have confidence in her selecting my wardrobe.”

“So, you think the people were booing because of the pink shirt?” asked an administration official.

“At first, I wasn’t sure,” admits Brownback. “I thought it could be because my t-shirt supported both teams. You know how people hate it when a politician rides the fence and won’t make a decision. But I saw other people wearing the same kind of t-shirt and they weren’t getting booed, so I knew that couldn’t be it.”

“Well, sir, exactly what does that have to do with this meeting?” wondered another official.

“I got to thinking on the flight back to Topeka, while consoling Mary, that as a state we need to do more to respect the rights of people who make fashion statements that go against the norm. Why don’t we go around the table and hear some ideas,” said Brownback.

“We’ll work on legislation that will allow anyone wearing pink to vote,” suggested Secretary of State Kris Kobach. “Of course, there will be a few restrictions along with that, such as they must have five forms of ID, they must prove they have never voted for a candidate other than a Republican in the last three general elections and they must be able to establish they have at least two previous generations of family who were citizens of the U.S. That shouldn’t be a problem. I’m working on a similar bill for Arizona.”

“Great job, Kris. I knew you’d come through.”

“We can make sure that anyone who wears pink won’t have their SNAP payments or other general assistance cut more than we’re doing it to anyone else,” said budget director Shawn Sullivan. “And we can keep cutting payments equally until the people wearing pink finally have to get a job.”

“Firm, but fair. That’s what I like,” said Brownback.


“All of this stuff we’re talking about gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling inside which, as a Republican, I have a real problem with,” noted Attorney General Derek Schmidt. “But, beyond that, I have to look at the legal side of this.”

“What problems do you see?” asked Brownback.

“I feel bad for the experience you and Mary had last weekend. But what happens . . . and this is just a hypothetical situation . . . but what would happen if two people decide to wear pink . . . and they are sitting together . . . and they want to hold hands . . . and they were of the same sex?” asked Schmidt as silence fell over the meeting room.

“In that case, we have the Supreme Court step in and say that it’s illegal,” said one official.

“But are the justices your people or are they activist judges who won’t back us?” Schmidt said.

“Every time we try to do something the courts are always in our way. Put getting rid of the Supreme Court on my to-do list for tomorrow morning,” said Brownback to his secretary.

“But, sir,” asked another official, “what if the crowd reaction you heard in Omaha had nothing to do with your shirt but something else?”

“Are you serious?” answered Brownback with a laugh. “And exactly what could that be?”

“Well,” the official said rather timidly, “there are reports that people are unhappy with the economy, and budget cuts to schools and the prospect of higher taxes on farm land. Maybe that’s why people were booing.”

“Listen here,” said Brownback as he leaned forward in his chair. “Look out that window.”

Everyone looks in the direction that Brownback is pointing.

“Is the sun shining?”

Everyone nods in agreement.

“Was I wearing a pink shirt the other day?”

Everyone nods in agreement.

“I don’t think the facts could be any clearer,” he said emphatically. “Now let’s get started on this people and remember, if we can’t protect people who make awkward fashion statements, then why are we here?”

Rod Haxton can be reached at

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