A Northeast Ohio couple discovered the pepperoni on their Little Caesars' pizza was arranged in a backward swastika the evening of June 27.
Jason Laska hadn’t noticed anything suspicious or different upon visiting the Little Caesars, a pizza chain location the Middleburg Heights family visited often in Brook Park on Smith Road.
“I do remember there was a couple of kids in the back that were kind of horsing around, but aside from that, (nothing was different),” Jason Laska told the CJN. “I walked in, I asked the guy at the counter, ‘What do you have left?’ And he turned around and pulled it out of the warmer and handed it to me. I paid him and walked out. It was that simple.”
The pizza box remained closed until it reached the home he shares with his wife, Misty Laska, and their children. Misty Laska opened the box and “shockingly” asked Jason Laska if he had ordered the pizza this way.
“That’s when I saw what she was seeing,” Jason Laska said. “We just kind of looked at each other, but our jaws dropped. It was shocking to say the least.”
The Laskas’ first thought, through their anger and surprise, was that Jason Laska was being profiled due to his looks.
“I’m a bald guy with a beard and tattoos, so I didn’t know if they were like, you know, profiling me or stereotyping me in any type of way by giving it to me,” Jason Laska said. “After the initial shock subsided, we just got very upset.”
They crossed off profiling as a possibility upon realizing anyone could have received the pizza.
“After we realized that they didn’t give it to him as hate speech, we were just even more shocked because we’re like, ‘Oh my goodness, what if somebody else got that pizza?’” Misty Laska said. “The fact that we got it, and obviously we’re going to let people know about this because that’s scary.”
The Laskas attempted to call the Little Caesars location that evening to get answers, but had no luck as it was close to the location’s closing time.
They then took to social media to inform others of the situation.
The next day, Jason Laska was contacted by Little Caesars’ corporate office and the owner of the Brook Park location due to his viral Facebook post. Both sides explained what happened and apologized to the Laskas over the phone, Jason Laska said.
Jason Laska was also informed the two employees who made the pizza were fired.
“The (Brook Park) owner specifically told me the (employees' who had made the pizza) side of the story, cause he had talked to them earlier that Sunday morning,” Jason Laska said. “According to him, what they had said was, ‘Yes, they did that to the pizza on purpose. It was meant to be a joke against one of the other employees.’ I’m assuming the guy at the counter because he handed it to me; I don’t think he knew what was on it. According to the owner, it was intended to be a joke internally between just the employees.”
Little Caesar Enterprises, Inc. released the following statement regarding the altercation:
“We have zero tolerance for racism and discrimination in any form, and these franchise store employees were immediately terminated. We’re deeply disappointed that this happened, as this conduct is completely against our values. We have also reached out to the customer to discuss this personally with him.”
The Laskas said they did not report the incident to police.
Despite negative online comments saying the couple made up the incident or created the pizza themselves, the Laskas said they will continue to fight and keep what happened in the public eye.
“Right now, nobody’s physically threatening us or anything like that, so we’re going to keep it going,” Jason Laska said. “Hopefully, we can help make a change in the world. It’s a horrible thing and it was awful, but it’s also a good opportunity for people that might be ignorant to see these things still hurt people.”