Basketball Players Wrongfully Accused of Stealing, Kicked Off American Airlines Flight

Dec 28, 2017

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American Airlines has gotten a lot of negative feedback for its treatment of African-American passengers recently, prompting the NAACP to go as far as issuing an advisory warning travelers to avoid the world’s largest airline. Now, AA is facing backlash again for how a flight attendant treated two black professional basketball players on a recent flight.

Here’s what’s known about the situation: On Christmas Eve, two African-American members of the Memphis Hustle — a minor affiliate of the Memphis Grizzles basketball team — boarded an American Airlines flight from Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to Sioux Falls, South Dakota (FSD). The flight was operated by Envoy Air, an American Eagle airline.

For an undisclosed reason, two first class passengers gave the Memphis Hustle players — guard Marquis Teague and forward Trahson Burrell — their first class blankets. When an African-American flight attendant noticed the two men sitting in economy with first class blankets, he accused the men of stealing the blankets from first class. In the argument that ensued, the flight attendant said he felt unsafe traveling with the two passengers and forced them off of the flight.

An American Airlines spokesperson confirmed the events and explained the airline’s follow-up from there: An AA station manager met with the players, apologized for the situation and re-accommodated the passengers in first class on the next flight.

However, there are understandably not many flights between DFW-FSD, and the later flight didn’t arrive in time for the players to make the team’s Christmas dinner in Sioux Falls.

In a statement to The Points Guy, the airline apologized for the situation:

We apologize for what occurred on this flight. We take pride in bringing people together, and we know that on this flight we let some of our customers down. Our team at American, along with Envoy Air, is reviewing what happened, and will be reaching out to them.

As part of its reconciliation with the NAACP, American Airlines is launching an implicit bias training for all of its employees. I confirmed with an American Airlines spokesperson that this training will also include Envoy Air employees.

Featured image by John Gress / Getty Images

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