An African American family says a Nike store in suburban Los Angeles racially profiled them when an employee accused them of stealing a $12 basketball that they bought for their 18-month-old son.
Joel Stallworth and TaMiya Dickerson say the store manager, a white female, followed them outside of the store on July 5, and immediately demanded that they return the item. But Stallworth said he had purchased the item and continued walking. The employee however, followed them for several blocks, according to the Santa Monica Daily Press.
According to a press release, Stallworth, 32, said the manager called police, who he said automatically assumed the ball was stolen and insisted he give it back without verifying a theft. A video documenting the event has gone viral on social media. In it, Dickerson can be heard asking the officers why they assumed the basketball is stolen as a crowd gathers to watch the scene.
Santa Monica police Lt. Saul Rodriguez told the Daily Press that after an exchange between the family and police, officers asked to see the receipt for the ball, which Stallworth produced. However, he returned it to the store for a full refund.
The statement said that Santa Monica police have not explained why officers did not believe Stallworth — who owns a retail store in downtown Los Angeles himself. The attorney for the family, Stephen King, said the store manager was fired after the incident. He said Stallworth and Dickerson are considering legal action against Nike.
“Our only recourse is to go to court and see if Nike is willing to make a change. If not, we’ll take it to a jury trial and have our peers decide if Nike did the right thing,” King told the Daily Press. “The ball is in their court.”
The company told the newspaper said that it has issued an apology to the family and is investigating the incident.