SAN FRANCISCO -- Six days before a college football player was arrested at San Francisco International Airport after he tried to board a US Airways jet with sagging pants, a man who was wearing little but women's undergarments was allowed to fly the airline, a US Airways spokeswoman has acknowledged.
A photo of the scantily clad man was provided to The Chronicle by Jill Tarlow, a passenger on the June 9 flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Phoenix. Tarlow said that other passengers had complained to airline workers before the plane boarded, but that employees had ignored those complaints.
US Airways spokeswoman Valerie Wunder confirmed she'd received the photo before last week's incident in San Francisco and had spoken to Tarlow, but said employees had been correct not to ask the man to cover himself.
"We don't have a dress code policy," Wunder said. "Obviously, if their private parts are exposed, that's not appropriate. ... So if they're not exposing their private parts, they're allowed to fly."
Wunder would not comment directly on the June 15 incident involving Deshon Marman, the University of New Mexico player yanked from an Albuquerque-bound flight after he allegedly declined an employee's request to raise his pajama pants above mid-thigh level.
Police have said only that Marman's boxer shorts were exposed, and his attorney said surveillance video would prove Marman's skin had not been visible.
Police arrested Marman, 20, who grew up in San Francisco, after he allegedly refused the pilot's orders to get up from his seat. He was booked on suspicion of trespassing, battery and resisting arrest, but San Mateo County prosecutors have not decided whether to charge him.
Marman's attorney, Joe O'Sullivan, said that his client had been stereotyped by US Airways as a thug and that the airline was guilty of racial discrimination for asking Marman, an African American, to adjust his clothes.
"It just shows the hypocrisy involved," O'Sullivan said after he viewed the photo of the cross-dressing passenger. "They let a drag queen board a flight and welcomed him with open arms. Employees didn't ask him to cover up. He didn't have to talk to the pilot. They didn't try to remove him from the plane -- and many people would find his attire repugnant."
Tarlow, 40, who was returning home to Phoenix after helping her mother move, said she had been shocked when she noticed the older man in blue underwear and black stockings standing in the Fort Lauderdale terminal. Tarlow said the man had obliged when she asked to take his photo.
"No one would believe me if I didn't take his picture," Tarlow said. "It was unbelievable. ... And he loved it. He posed for me."
Wunder reiterated the airline's stance that Marman had not been removed from the US Airways flight last week because of his clothing, but because he had failed to comply with an employee's request.
"The root of the matter is, if you don't comply with the captain's requests," Wunder said, "the captain has the right to handle the issue because it's one of safety."
(Email reporter Justin Berton at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)