In 1998, Coca-Cola held a contest inviting high-school students to devise promotional ideas for the company. A prize of $500 would go to the school with the best PR strategy. Greenbriar High in Evans, Georgia, was the winner. On “Coke Day,” students were to attend lectures from visiting company executives, wear Coke t-shirts to school and pose for a group photograph, spelling out the word Coke with their bodies. Senior Mike Cameron decided to play a prank. Just as the group formation photo was about to be taken, he removed his outer shirt to reveal a Pepsi t-shirt. He was suspended for being rude and disruptive. The principal explained: “We had the regional president of Coca- Cola here and people flew in from Atlanta to do us the honor of being resource speakers.” Is there anything ethically troubling about this story? Is there a distinction between paid advertisements in schools and corporate sponsorship of the content of education? What would happen if Mike sued for violation of his First Amendment rights?
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