Last month, Charles Ramsey put down his Big Mac, kicked down a door, and helped rescue Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight from a decade-long imprisonment in Ariel Castro’s home. His role in ending the Cleveland kidnapping case made him famous; his captivating interviews afterward made him a sensation.
And a lot of the attention given Mr. Ramsey has zeroed in on his frequent mention, in those interviews, of the lunch he was eating that day. Now, it seems, he’d like to correct that.
As Ramsey’s fame grew last month, and videos of his interviews went viral, burger restaurants big and small made moves to show their appreciation. McDonald’s tweeted “Way to go, Charles Ramsey. We’ll be in touch,” and later offered Ramsey free McDonald’s for a year from Cleveland-area franchises. The owners of downtown Cleveland restaurants Pura Vida and Hodge’s, where Ramsey worked as a dishwasher, introduced the “Ramsey Burger” onto menus and conceived of a “punch card” that would allow Ramsey free burgers. Dozens of other Cleveland eateries followed suit, offering Ramsey a burger on the house whenever he’d like one.
But according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ramsey has communicated through his lawyer that he doesn’t endorse the burgers being named after him, nor the free lunches. "I never told these people they could use my name for this," he said in a written statement issued through his law firm, Walker and Jocke.
Hodge’s and Pura Vida removed the Ramsey Burger from menus in response, and owner Scott Kuhn issued an apology.
"The Ramsey burger was named to honor an employee at a time he indicated he would be returning to his job at Hodge's,” his statement read. “It was not developed to generate additional revenue for the restaurant -- nor has it. We are saddened to hear that Chuck did not take this -- or the offer of so many Cleveland restaurants to give him free meals -- in the spirit we intended."
Ramsey had even harsher words to say about an online video game produced in Taiwan that uses his likeness. In it, a “Ramsey” avatar battles Mr. Castro by throwing hamburgers at him.
"I want everyone to know that I have nothing to do with this trash," his statement reads.
In lambasting the game and turning down free burgers, Ramsey is accomplishing two things. For one, he’s taking control of his image, by hiring a lawyer and sidestepping opportunities that make him appear to be getting a free lunch out of the harrowing ordeal of the three women imprisoned next door. His lawyer, Patricia Walker, told the Plain Dealer than Ramsey hired her in an effort to protect his intellectual property rights and gain control over his likeness and voice.
Second, Ramsey seems to be using the opportunity to direct attention to the crime and its victims, something he’s been fairly consistent about during the onslaught of media attention. In the days after the rescue, he made clear that any reward money should go toward helping Castro’s victims rebuild their lives. “He is encouraging people to help the victims,” Walker told the Dealer.
And that message may be catching on. McDonald's, for one, made a $10,000 donation to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the names of Ramsey, Berry, DeJesus, and Knight. No word on whether Ramsey will take the chain up on its free burger offer.