Letter to the Editor: Union Street Market chef who tackled Gatti speaks out

EDITOR'S NOTE – The following is a letter to the editor that was submitted to The Daily Campus by Union Street Market worker Bill McKay, who was seen in the viral mac 'n' cheese video physically restraining student Luke Gatti from a physical altercation with his supervisor, Dave Robinson.

First let me say thank you to the University of Connecticut and others who have expressed support for Dave Robinson, myself and the Union Street Market staff as a whole. By now, millions of people have seen the video of what happened a little over a week ago at Union Street Market and are well aware of the now infamous mac and cheese incident.

Though some may be disappointed, I’m not going to comment on the video or the incident. Everyone who has seen it knows what happened. But, if I have your support, please take a few moments to read what I have to say.  

Everyone has done something stupid in their life. There are no exceptions to the rule. Some mistakes are obviously bigger than others. Some, like this one, seem bigger because of the social media that exists today.

A couple of days ago, Luke Gatti, who has been labeled “the mac and cheese kid,” posted a video on YouTube to apologize for the incident. I’ve heard and read comments stating he only did it because his parents made him do it, his lawyer made him do it, it was the day before his court date, he didn’t really mean it, etc.

While I can’t speak for Dave, or anyone else at the university, let me be perfectly clear as to where I stand.

I forgive Luke Gatti.

I hope that got your attention, because it’s the truth. I almost see people rolling their eyes or shaking their heads. Let me ask you a question. How would you like to have your dumbest mistake you’ve ever made broadcast to the world? How would you like to be turned into a pariah?

Now, let me be equally clear. Forgiveness does not mean I believe Gatti shouldn’t be held accountable for his actions. He should, and he will. But people need to stop beating him over the head. I find it ironic that just a few weeks after UConn hosted a suicide prevention forum that I’m reading many comments telling Gatti he should kill himself.  

Many people have told me his apology is not sincere. Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t, but I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt. I may be called naive, foolish or worse, for thinking this way, but that is not my concern, and in the end I just have to answer to me.

I’ve heard people say he’s not sincere because he’s not looking in the camera. I can tell you from experience when I was younger I couldn’t look my parents in the eyes when I did something wrong like this. Also, in my case, I’ve always had a nervous smirk that has gotten me into trouble with both my dad and drill sergeants who felt I was treating the situation as a joke when in fact I was just nervous.

A couple days after the incident, when my kids saw the video my oldest daughter left me a note that said I’m a hero. Well, I’m glad I’m her hero, but I’m not a hero. I did what I did to protect a friend. Cops, for the most part, are heroes. Firefighters are heroes. EMTs, doctors, soldiers, the list goes on: these people are heroes.

Helping someone in need is not heroic. It’s something we should all be doing.

I've had a lot of time to think about this. The bottom line is since I am a Christian I need to forgive.  I can't say no because I don't believe your apology is sincere. I’ve not always been the best Christian, but perhaps I can use what happened to set an example now.

If I’m really going to be a hero to my daughters, I need to teach them about forgiveness. That doesn’t mean I can teach them that people can do whatever they want. You can forgive someone, but they still need to accept responsibility for their actions.

The apostle Paul is considered one of the greatest messengers of Christ, yet before he was converted he was there giving his approval when Stephen was stoned to death. King David, a man after God’s own heart, was an adulterer and a murderer who begged for forgiveness. Christ himself set the example for us when he said, “Forgive them for they know now what to do.”

So how can I not forgive the actions of a young man who was drunk and stupid?

It is obvious he has a problem. He admits he has a problem, and he needs to deal with it.  Do I think he should be expelled from UConn? I honestly think he should be, but not for the reasons you might think.

I feel there are more deserving students living in state who would not squander the chance like he has. But furthermore, based on his behavior last week and last year at UMass, I don’t feel he is ready for college.

For everyone pointing the finger at Gatti, I can tell you I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve driven home after second shift to see drunk and stupid along the road. He’s not the only drunk out there. He’s not the only drunk in the Student Union. He’s not the only one exhibiting bad behavior. But he is the one who got caught on camera.

A lot of people are saying he’s a rich, entitled spoiled brat because he lives on Long Island. I don’t know him. Do you? I don’t know his parents, or how they raised him. Do you? Yet, in college, where everyone is supposed to be open-minded, they are criticizing people they don’t even know and jumping to conclusions.

What if his parents are rich? Hating someone because they are rich is just as bad as stereotyping someone because they are a different race or gender. Money is just a tool, and it’s how you use it that matters.  If being rich is a crime, then most of UConn should be arrested.  You’re not going to school so you can leave broke. You’re trying to do what you want, but you also want to earn money.

By the way, despite what some people have claimed, his parents didn’t get the viral video down. It was copyrighted, removed and then re-posted so the person who filmed it could get the credit and have control over it. 

Long before this happened, I’ve said that I sometimes wish the microprocessor had never been invented. Believe it or not, we survived long before computers. We used things called typewriters, checkbooks and filing cabinets. Computers are a tool that can be used or abused. It is time for us, and the media, to put this to rest. Follow-up articles on court dates are one thing, but beating Gatti up on a daily basis for a dumb mistake that went viral needs to end. 

I will give some unsolicited advice to Gatti. Get some help with your alcohol problem and/or other problems, whether it be AA or whatever you need to get yourself fixed. You said it was a wakeup call. I hope this was rock bottom for you. First, because you don’t want to go lower, and second, because many times people don’t get help until they hit rock bottom.  

When all is said and done with the courts, my advice is the same advice others have given you online, and that is to join the military. For hundreds of years our military has turned boys into men and not just because it had taught them to fight. It teaches responsibility and discipline.

If you are not precluded from joining because of this or prior incidents I suggest you seriously look into it. Four years may seem like a lifetime, but trust me, it’s a drop in the bucket. There are plenty of options available in which you won’t necessarily be on the front lines. 

You will learn to be part of a team. You will push yourself like you never thought possible. You will learn to work with others to get the job done. You can get on the G.I. Bill so down the road, if you go back to college you can use it to help pay back your parents for all they’ve done for you. 

If you are reading this, I hope your apology truly was sincere. Feel free to get in touch with me if you’d like. I’m not that hard to find. 

To all who offered the staff and I support, I say thanks. To Sadie Rumsey and Olivia Korte, who set up the GoFundMe listing, I say thank you for your kind gesture. I don’t know what will happen with that if anything, but I wanted to say thank you.

So, to the mass media, and everyone who wants to keep putting him down and beating a dead horse, I say the same thing I told Luke that night: you’re done. Show's over.

P.S. – To Colin McEnroe: you’re way off base comparing coach Geno Auriemma to a drunken college freshman.