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Calif. Lifeguards Lose Job Over Popular YouTube Video Imitation

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(EL MONTE, Calif.) -- The popular YouTube dance music video “Gangnam Style” has not only gone viral, it’s indirectly gotten a group of California lifeguards fired.

Korean pop singer PSY’s video -- which starts on a beach, as PSY demonstrates his “horse-riding dance” and begins singing about longing for a girl who is "tender and big-hearted” by day, but wild and fiery by night -- inspired the lifeguards to create their own spoof, “Lifeguard Style.” Lifeguards clad in red suits dance, swim together, thrust their hips and generally have a grand time.

But when El Monte city officials saw the video, they were less than impressed. In a written statement released to ABC affiliate KABC the city said:

“There was a clear unauthorized use of city resources and property, including the use of city-issued uniforms during the making of this unauthorized video. The city maintains that it holds all employees to a higher standard.”

 

El Monte city officials cited that the content of the video was not what led to the firing; rather it was the “unauthorized use of a city facility for the group’s private benefit.”

One of the fired lifeguards, 22-year-old Michael Roa, said he was shown the video by a friend in the break room and thought the video was “hilarious” and decided to do his own with his fellow lifeguards.

“We wanted to commemorate a great and successful summer for the pool and to make memories with people that we worked with,” he said. “We wanted to have something to look back on as a fond memory of the pool. We never thought it would turn out to be what it has become.”

Roa said he was told by the El Monte city manager that the video was “disgusting” and an “embarrassment” to the city.

“I uploaded it to YouTube as a way to show it to my friends, not for fame, and there was no malice and I wasn’t looking for monetary gain or to give the city a bad image,” Roa said. “I can’t really express how frustrated I am with the rash decisions that they’re making.”

The El Monte city manager could not be reached for comment. Nor could the mayor.

Roa said he knew that when he was called into a meeting with the city manager it was because of the video, but he said he had no idea what form of punishment would be pursued. He also said the video’s aftereffects proved far worse than he initially thought.

“I am extremely frustrated to hear that even though I was the one who orchestrated it all and the ones who didn’t know they were being filmed were fired,” Roa said. “My supervisor and pool manager were both fired, and the pool manager wasn’t even in the video and my supervisor was in it briefly, maybe four times unknowingly.”

The pool manager was fired because he did not “alert city officials about the video,” Roa said.

As a graduate student at the University of La Verne in La Verne, Calif., Roa said the lifeguard job helped 13 of the 14 lifeguards pay for their college tuition.

“It helped me supplement my college education with student loans, and now I don’t have this income,” he said. “I also know a lot of the employees who were fired do not have any other jobs that help pay for it.”

The 14 fired lifeguards have started a Facebook petition page to campaign for their jobs back. Roa said the community has already been sending an outpouring of support his way.

“I have been working at the aquatic center for seven years,” Roa said. “Because of our service we have a lot of support within the local community and it is a great confidence booster. I was always excited to go to work and see the kids I teach and to know the community cares as much I care, it means a lot.”

The original video titled “Gangnam Style,” has been viewed more than 117 million times on YouTube and has already created a celebrity buzz surrounding singer PSY, who was featured on Thursday night’s MTV Video Music Awards and was signed as client of Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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