Black family racially profiled while visiting Nike store in Santa Monica – Santa Monica Daily Press
A black family who visited the Nike site in Santa Monica Place on July 5 said the store manager was motivated by racism when she accused them of stealing a basketball they had bought for their son and summoned the police.
Joel Stallworth and TaMiya Dickerson took their 18-month-old son, Sammy, to the Nike store and bought him his first basketball. When they left the store around 9:00 p.m. after saying goodbye to the employees, a white manager followed them outside and told Stallworth to give her the ball.
Stallworth told her he bought the ball and kept walking, but she followed him for several blocks, accusing him of stealing it. She summoned officers from the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) nearby. The family began to argue with the officers and the manager because they felt they were being racially profiled.
Officers then demanded to see Stallworth’s receipt to confirm he bought the ball and let the family go, Lt. Saul Rodriguez said. They returned the $12 bale for a full refund.
Stallworth, who was on the basketball and track teams at California State University, Stanislaus and now owns a clothing store in downtown Los Angeles, said the manager ruined a special moment with his son .
“My son saw his father being accused of theft,” he said. “This lady discriminated against me in front of my family.”
He added that he felt officers took the director’s story at face value and did not assume his innocence.
“I can’t say I was surprised, because being a black man in America, we really don’t carry too much weight with the police,” he said. “The manager who harassed me put me in a place where it was hard to calm down, and getting upset with the police can end in death for people who look like me.”
Stallworth said he hopes the video Dickerson took of the interaction, which has gone viral online, will shed light on how often black Americans experience racial profiling. He and Dickerson, a business consultant, file a lawsuit against Nike for racial profiling and defamation of character.
Their attorney, Stephen King, said the incident calls into question Nike’s employee policy and training and may suggest racial bias rooted in its corporate culture.
“Our only recourse is to go to court and see if Nike is willing to make a change. If not, we will put it to a jury trial and our peers will decide if Nike did the right thing. King said. “The ball is in their court.”
KeJuan Wilkins, Nike’s vice president of communications for North America, said the company has apologized to the family and is investigating what happened on July 5. The manager was fired, King said.
“We take the recent situation at our Santa Monica store very seriously,” Wilkins said. “We have reached out to the family to express our sincere apologies, and we will continue to work with our teams to ensure we meet our customer experience expectations.”