Nathan Kirk in front of his truck sporting the license plate the State of Alabama is revoking. CREDIT James Nicholas
A Blount County man who personalized his license plate with the acronym LGBFJB, a Don’t Tread on Me image, and the words “Let’s go Brandon,” a phrase popularly associated with a vulgar insult against Joe Biden, has been told by the State of Alabama he must change the plate name or lose his vehicle registration.
Nathan Kirk, the owner of Blount County Tactical, a gun store in Oneonta, is considering taking legal action on First Amendment grounds to keep the license plate name.
“Nothing about it is right,” he said of the letter he received from the Alabama Department of Revenue Friday.
“Someone at Montgomery, I’m assuming, doesn’t like it, and now they’re throwing a fit.”
The letter informed Kirk’s wife, Courtney Kirk, who has his vehicle registered in her name, according to Kirk, that she had 10 days to surrender the license plate to a county official or have the vehicle registration revoked.
“The Alabama Department of Revenue, Motor Vehicle Division, has determined the above-referenced license plate contains objectionable language which is considered by the Department to be offensive to the peace and dignity of the State of Alabama.”
The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the incident.
The letter, dated Feb. 17, stated that registration for the plate would not be renewed and that an alternative plate could be selected for no charge. Kirk said he paid $700 for the personalized plate back in October.
The saying “Let’s go Brandon” reportedly started its life at the Talladega Speedway in 2021 when a reporter mistook the crowd’s cheers of “F--- Joe Biden” for a cheer of “Let’s Go Brandon!” for one of the drivers, Brandon Brown.
In 2014, the state recalled a license plate with a homophobic slur, stating that Alabama prohibits offensive or vulgar messages on license plates.
“By law, the issuance of motor vehicle registrations is not centralized and must be processed at the county level. However, the Motor Vehicle Division of the Alabama Department of Revenue does hold the authority to approve personalized messages on license plates,” Amanda Collier, a spokesperson for the department told AL.com in reference to the 2014 incident.
At the time, officials said the homophobic insult was allowed due to “human error” and that taxpayers had the ability to appeal recall decisions.
The department similarly approved Kirk’s plate, which is currently on his silver, Ford-150 King Ranch truck, before sending the letter revoking it for objectionable language.
Nathan Kirk applied for his license plate in October of 2021
Kirk told AL.com that because his license plate contains an acronym and does not contain a vulgar word, its meaning is a matter of interpretation, and it should not be revoked.
“I say “forget,” instead of the other word,” he said referring to the popular anti-Biden phrase.
Driving a car that is not registered comes with a fine of $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for a second offense, the department’s letter stated.
“An appeal concerning the denial of the issuance or renewal of a license plate shall be made with the circuit court of the county where the motor vehicle is registered,” it said.
“My point is, it’s letters,” Kirk said about the plate, which he ordered in October. “It could be my kid’s initials. It could be my grandmother or grandfather. It’s just letters. It doesn’t spell anything.”
Since October, several prominent Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz, have touted the phrase “Let’s Go Brandon.”
Joe Biden has been taunted with the phrase by protesters, and by a father during the president’s phone calls to children as they tracked Santa Claus through the North American Aerospace Defense Command Santa Tracker on Christmas Eve. “I agree,” Biden reportedly told the man.
Kirk said he’s been getting a lot of support from people in his area who want him to fight the license plate revocation with legal action. He believes his free speech is being suppressed for political reasons, and he plans to push the matter as far as he can.
“Most people only think it’s free speech if it only represents a certain aspect of the country or a certain portion of the country, and that’s not what the First Amendment is about,” he said.
“I have the right to put a tag on my vehicle and it can say what I want it to say.”