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Funny or fat-shaming? Community center's controversial sign divides neighbors

Will Tonowski, who made the marquee, says his "intention was not to fat-shame anyone."
/ Source: TODAY

The Leefield Community League in Edmonton, Canada, is meant to bring locals together. But residents are divided over a sign outside the building that read, “Tired of being fat & ugly? Hit the gym and just be ugly.”

Jessica Baudin-Griffin snapped a photo of the controversial marquee and shared it on her Facebook page.

“This is NOT humor. This kind of messaging only perpetuates body shaming culture,” Baudin-Griffin wrote. “Our words and language MATTER! Children learn through what we model. We teach them how to treats others. We teach them how to speak to others and themselves.”

Baudin-Griffin felt compelled to speak out on social media because the Leefield Community League receives public funding. "It's not a private business," she told TODAY. "They are responsible to maintain certain mandates and guidelines in terms of creating a safe and inclusive community, and I felt they missed the mark."

Baudin-Griffin she would have "happily engaged in a dialogue with the community league," but they were "unwilling."

Baudin-Griffin's Facebook post went viral with hundreds of comments. “My house is only a couple blocks away and I have to drive by this every single day. I go between raging and wanting to burst into tears,” wrote one person on her Facebook post. A physical education teacher noted that those in her profession know "how damaging these kinds of statements are to children and adults."

But not everyone was offended and several accused other commenters of being too touchy. As one woman wrote, “This is funny… people are just to (sic) sensitive these days to see it.”

Will Tonowski, president of the Leefield Community League, did not mean to hurt anyone's feelings. “My intention was not to fat-shame anyone,” the retired police officer told TODAY. “I’ve battled with my weight my entire life, but I have a sense of humor about it.”

Tonowski said he changes the sign every five days and mixes it up with messages ranging from inspirational to edgy. He recently replaced “tired of being fat and ugly?” with “a seminar on time travel will be held here 2 weeks ago.”

According to Tonowski, commuters look forward to seeing what he’ll do next. “It makes their drive to work more fun,” he told TODAY. “They look at the sign and chuckle."

Finding the line between funny and offensive isn't just a debate for this small town.

Macy's recently pulled a collection of dinner plates that shamed diners for the amount they eat. Each dish features three concentric circles meant to help with portion control. The smallest circle is labeled "skinny jeans," and the largest, "mom jeans."