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It’s no secret that TSA has a bad rap. From transgender travelers to little boys, the agency has targeted all kinds of people who have walked through an airports’ shiny metal scanners. But it appears you don’t even need to be alive to be harassed by airport security.
A.J. Francis, a football player for the New York Giants, tweeted yesterday express his outrage after the Transportation Security Administration rifled through his suitcase and spilled his mother’s ashes. The defensive lineman included a photo showing his luggage with cremated remains scattered all over his clothes.
Hey you pieces of shit at @TSA next time you assholes feel the need to go thru my mother’s ashes for no reason, make sure you close it back so her remains aren’t spilled on all my clothes... the least you pieces of garbage can do is your fucking job pic.twitter.com/GcJDMXvWfO— FRAN¢ (@AJFrancis410) July 9, 2018
Three hours later, TSA apologized on their Twitter. But the damage was already done.
2: Our officers are trained to handle your carry-on and checked property with care. Out of respect for the deceased, under no circumstances should the container be opened. Please accept our apologies and our condolences. https://t.co/dlf0Ci6Fh3 https://t.co/wLxp0Wphg9— AskTSA (@AskTSA) July 9, 2018
Under all circumstances fuck yourself https://t.co/afrC9YuNWQ— FRAN¢ (@AJFrancis410) July 9, 2018
The craziest part of this @TSA shit is that I dont even care that they checked it... they were just being cautious, & I can understand that.— FRAN¢ (@AJFrancis410) July 9, 2018
But to not ensure that it won’t spill back into my bag after you put it back in is the most asinine & irresponsible shit I have ever seen.
“Carefully repackaged” but there were no remains in the suitcase when I opened it on camera at my Bag check... then I open it at home, open my suitcase and take this picture.— FRAN¢ (@AJFrancis410) July 10, 2018
I’m over this. pic.twitter.com/m5unnXotSP
I don’t even want anyone fired... that person made a stupid mistake but they have a family too. I just want TSA to be cognizant if it’s own internal idiocy— FRAN¢ (@AJFrancis410) July 10, 2018
Though Francis received an outpour of support, some Twitter users voiced their skepticism and asked him why he didn’t simply just carry his ashes on the airplane.
Because I’m 6’5 330 and people know who I am and talk to me every single time I go to the airport and I didn’t want to talk to dozens of strangers about my mother’s death last week... is that good enough for you?— FRAN¢ (@AJFrancis410) July 9, 2018
On another note it’s a container larger than 4 Oz so go fuck yourself— FRAN¢ (@AJFrancis410) July 9, 2018
Cremated remains are allowed in checked bags and, with special instructions, in carry-on bags, according to the TSA website. It also advises travelers to check with their airline about traveling with cremated remains in checked bags, as some do not allow it.
Many users on social media shared an archived post from 2012 stating that cremated remains are subject to screening and must pass through an x-ray machine. “If the X-ray Operator cannot clear the remains, TSA may apply other, non-intrusive means of resolving the alarm.” However, it is unclear as to whether this policy is still in place, as it states that the page may contain information that is outdated.
The current policy and the archived post both maintain that TSA employees are prohibited from opening the container.
According to his tweet, Francis flew Delta, which allows for cremated remains to be checked or carried on. The airline also requires a death certificate, which he said he was waiting on. In any case, TSA clearly violated policy by opening his container. The agency did not immediately respond to the Daily Dot’s request for comment.
To carry ashes on the plane you have to have a death certificate which is still being mailed to me... so do me a favor and shut the fuck up about things you don’t know— FRAN¢ (@AJFrancis410) July 10, 2018
Francis’ story prompted other users across social media to share their own experiences being harassed or mistreated by TSA.
.— 🌊 #VoteBlueNoMatterWho (@TruthTellingNow) July 10, 2018
I've had three jackets stolen from my bags on three different flights. Screw .@TSA. I'm sorry they invaded your belongings so unprofessionally. You know someone watched & said nothing.
I watched them remove an 80 year old female amputee's leg prosthesis, and it was very painful for her and in front of everyone.— Bukerbabe 🌻🕊️🦄 (@Athens7316) July 10, 2018
Francis shared fond memories of his mother on Instagram in the weeks leading up to the incident with TSA. According to one post, his mother, Carrie Leanne Francis, died on June 26.
Update 8:43pm CT, July 11: In a statement emailed to the Daily Dot, the TSA said a video of the screening showed the container Francis used to store his mother’s ashes was “alarmed for an unidentified object.”
“A TSA officer discovered the unidentified object was an opened, unmarked ceramic container, wrapped in aluminum foil inside a small bag,” the statement said. “Upon further inspection of the checked bag, the container was loosely packaged, unmarked and the contents unknown to the TSA officer.”
According to the statement, the container was “carefully repacked” after the bag was screen and cleared. The TSA also reiterated its current policy on cremated remains and advised passengers to secure them in a container made of lighter materials such as wood or plastic.
Kristina Nguyen is an editorial intern for the Daily Dot. She is studying journalism and American studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She has previously contributed to Orange magazine and Silk Club's QUIET! zine.