American Airlines Apologizes to Professional Athletes Accused of Theft by a Black Flight Attendant

By Frederick H. Lowe

American Airlines jet

American Airlines recently announced that it would implement diversity training after meeting with NAACP officials who confronted the airline about their employees’ treatment of black passengers.

Some of us assume this training would apply only to American’s mostly white workforce but a recent incident underscores that the training also must include African-American workers.

American Airlines officials recently apologized to Marquis Teague and Trahson Burrell, two National Basketball Association players, after an unnamed black-male flight attendant wrongfully accused the men of stealing two blankets from the first- class cabin on a flight from Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Envoy airlines operated the flight.

“Did you steal them?” Darnell Lazare, coach of Memphis Hustle, tweeted the accusatory remarks by the flight attendant.  Teague and Burrell play for The Hustle, a Memphis Grizzlies’ minor league team.

The flight attendant and the men argued, and the the two players were forced to exit the plane, missing their flight.

Later, it was learned two first-class passengers had given the blankets to Teague and Burrell when they boarded the plane.

The incident illustrates how quickly some blacks and whites will accuse black men of possible wrongdoing based on nothing but their skin color.

In October 2015, John Henson , a 6′ 11” forward for the Milwaukee Bucks, attempted to buy a watch at Schwanke-Kasten Jewelers in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. When the white women clerks saw Henson’s black face, they hid in the back of the store and called the police.

A similar incident happened to me.

I was perusing one of the gift shops at The Art Institute of Chicago when a black woman security guard said to her white partner “I gonna to see what he’s up to.”

She stood close to me and stared at me with an angry look. She left when my wife and son walked up. I was a member of the Art Institute but soon afterwards I dropped my membership.

I am sure a lot of African-Americans see black men only as criminals because we are mostly shown wearing handcuffs. Some of us are criminals, but not all of us.

Trahson Teague and Marquis Burrell

Lazare had a class recommendation for American Airlines.

“How about you teach people to get the facts first before jumping to conclusions,” Lazare tweeted.

Joshua Freed, an American Airlines spokesman, said the two were put on another flight and flew first class to Sioux Falls but they arrived too late for the team’s dinner.

 

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