Barry Allen became a viral sensation after he ended a racist rant with a can of Twisted Tea. The 30-year-old father of five, known as “TeaKO” or the “Twisted Tea Guy,” told Heavy he is grateful for the support he’s received, and hopes to see an end to belligerence like he faced at Circle K in Elyria, Ohio.
“By the time my kids are adults – even teenagers – I don’t want them to be afraid of anything happening to them because of the color of their skin. It’s not fair,” he told Heavy in an exclusive interview. “Hopefully by the time they’re teenagers, they won’t have to worry about that. It’s a beautiful country and the country is already changing.”
A video posted on Twitter December 24 went viral, which showed a white man shouting and using racial slurs at Circle K in Elyria, Ohio. Allen said he asked the man to stop using the “n-word,” but he continued saying it. About 48 seconds into the video, Allen drops the can of tea and the other man says “Smack me with it.” Allen reels back and hits the other man hard in the face, knocking him into a trash can an object off screen.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Allen Was Shocked the Video Went Viral & Spoke About the Moments Before & After Filming
Allen said he quickly noticed the white man in the video, who has not been named, when he walked into the Circle K. He said he seemed severely intoxicated, and he could smell alcohol on him.
“He was actually really intoxicated. You could smell the beer reeking off of him before I got too close to him,” he said.
The man was using the “n-word,” against two employees, who were black, before the video started. He could tell the employees were uncomfortable, but that they were unable to confront him since they were working. He hoped the man would leave before he got in line to buy his favorite beverage.
“When I got my stuff and got to the register, he was still going,” he said.
Allen asked the man to stop using the word, and he continued to say it.
“He said he could say whatever he wants. He said he’s from the hood.”
The altercation escalated further when the man insulted Allen’s mom, shouting “F*** yo momma.” Allen said his mother died the day after Christmas two years ago.
“So that was still a touchy thing to me,” he said.
At that point, he said he wanted to fight the man but was restraining himself. Then he dropped the can of tea and the man kicked at it, Allen said.
“He wasn’t backing down at that point. Now I’m ready to fight. The can was already in my hand, so that kinda did it,” he said.
The man tried to scratch him in the face, he said, which prompted him to punch the man. He backed off, but the man kept fighting.
“He’s still ready to go, so I started choking him, trying to calm him down. That’s why I said ‘Are you good now?'”
After the video ended, he said he noticed the woman recording the video. If he had known he was being recorded, he said he would not have hit the man. But she gave him a high-five. Then he went to buy a new Twisted Tea, and the man followed him and threatened him before leaving, he said.
Allen said he went out to the car to call his wife and tell her what happened.
“She said, ‘Yeah I know. I’m watching it,'” he recalled.
By the time he drove the two blocks home, the video already had about 5,000 views.
2. Allen Said He Has Epilepsy & Two Injured Shoulders & Avoids Fights
Allen said he is a person who avoids fights.
“I’m just a family man. I’m not a violent guy like the video shows.”
He has epilepsy and is “technically disabled,” he said.
“I’m actually not even able to throw a full punch because both of my shoulders are blown out,” he said.
Allen said he didn’t watch the video himself until the next day. His older brother called him asking about it. The following day, his next oldest brother called, laughing about the video. At the time, he said he was expecting a knock on the door from the police, thinking he would be arrested for assault.
He talked to his cousin, a retired police officer, who said no one was pressing charges, Allen said. Elyria police Lieutenant James Welsh told The Chronicle December 24 he was aware of the viral video, but that no one had reported it to police.
3. Allen Said His Hometown of Elyria, Ohio Is Diverse & He Wants the Takeaway From the Video to Be an End to the ‘N-Word’
With millions of people around the world watching the video of the Twisted Tea smackdown, Allen hopes it carries a message for people who use racial slurs.
“It wasn’t about the can or anything. It was about the fact that he felt comfortable to say the word,” he said. “It’s not OK.”
He said it’s far from the first time the word has been used against him, but that usually people stop when they are asked.
“I’m not a fan of the ‘n-word’ being thrown out – the hate behind it, especially with everything going on in the last year – it really was a sensitive topic,” he said.
He is a lifelong Elyria resident. He said his hometown is diverse and that often older people “still stuck in their very old ways” are those he has heard using the slur.
“I just want that word to be eliminated from everyone’s vocabulary. There’s words we don’t use anymore, so that should be one of them,” he said. “That word just hurts my soul, especially in that kind of tone. “If you’re gonna take anything away from the video, take away that.”
He said he hopes his kids can grow up in a world where the word is eliminated. He has five children, daughters ages 11 and 9, and three sons, ages 7, 6 and 2. He has been married for four years to his wife, and the two have been together for 13 years. She became his defacto agent and manager after his video went viral.
4. Allen Said He Is Honored By Those Who Call Him a Hero
Allen said he has been overwhelmed by positive support, and that people have been calling him a hero.
“I never in a million years thought anyone but my kids would call me that,” he said.
People have been asking to talk with him, meet with him, and requesting pictures of him with a can of Twisted Tea or asking him to autograph a Twisted Tea can, he said.
“It just means a lot. It’s a really good feeling. It’s a lot to handle. I’ve never had my social media accounts blowing up like they are,” he said. “I feel like I’m some kind of celebrity when I’m just some 30 year old who hangs out with his kids.”
He can barely keep up with the influx of messages on social media, and he said he wants everyone to know he is grateful. He is trying to keep up with messages and does not want anyone to feel slighted, he said.
Allen said in the January 2 interview that the stardom still seems surreal.
“It hasn’t set in that this is real. I feel like any day I’m gonna wake up and it’s just gonna be a dream,” he said. “I’m excited about it. I can’t thank everyone enough.”
5. Allen’s 7-Year-Old Son, Silas, Has a Medical Condition & a Family Friend Started a GoFundMe for a Wheelchair Van
Allen’s 7-year-old son, Silas, has a medical condition called malrotation, which was discovered when he was 4 months old.
“My 7-year-old son was born with all of his organs in the wrong place,” Allen said. “When they put them in the right place, a lot of things didn’t wake up the way they were supposed to.”
Over the summer, a person in Massachusetts made Silas an adaptive bicycle. State troopers in each state took part in delivering the bike to the family in Ohio and recorded each leg on video.
“That gave us such an unbelievable moment,” he said.
After that, his wife’s friend started a GoFundMe to raise money for the family to buy a wheelchair van. You can donate to the fundraiser here.
Allen said the van would make it much easier to take Silas to appointments, and to fit the family of seven into one vehicle.
Silas thanked everyone for their support in a video posted on Twitter.
“Thank you so much. Love you,” he said in the video, and blew a kiss.