Vodacom and ATENCION Telefonica are facing a legal battle after they aired a commercial with an image of a black man beating a woman in a bikini in 2013.
The commercial was part of an advertisement for Vodalite, the company’s premium wireless plan, that aired during the 2013 Rugby World Cup in England.
It shows a man holding a gun over the head of the woman as she screams and falls down.
The ad, which was widely mocked on social media, sparked a debate about the depiction of violence in the United Kingdom.
Vodas’ commercial also included a message saying, “In this world, violence is never a choice.”
The company has apologized and said it did not know the message was offensive until after the broadcast.
The lawsuit filed on Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union says Vodabox should not have aired the commercial because it violated a United States Supreme Court ruling.
In an email to ESPN, Vodapox said the company is “committed to diversity and inclusion in all our ads, but this ad is a very serious issue that we believe is worth discussing.”
ATENCIAL said it had received no complaints about the ad from Vodaxes customers.
It also said it was “deeply disappointed” by the decision.
The case was filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, where the two companies argued in October that the United States has a First Amendment right to air the commercial, even if it was not intended to offend.
The company is asking for $1.6 million in damages, as well as a jury trial.