Civil Rights, News

American Airlines apologizes to two black NBA players 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 Sunday 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.



  1. It was the early 1990s, and I was shopping at a Lord & Taylor in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. It was a Monday afternoon and I had that day off from my job as a senior editor at a Detroit business publication. The store was practically empty. Nonetheless, I was quickly followed throughout my excursion in the men’s department by a couple of white security guards. I also heard the code chimesdo their usual “ding ding dong ding” alert for a possible shoplifting suspect — me. A few minutes later there was a whoosh rushing past me. A white male had taken a load of leather coats, rack at all, and gotten into a getaway vehicle. When the guards returned without the suspect but with a look of frustration, I turned to them, smiled saying, “See, you were following the wrong man.” And then I pulled out my Lord & Taylor credit card and told her to cancel it. I have never been in another Lord & Taylor in more than 25 years.

  2. Great story. Thank you for sharing it, Frederick H. Lowe

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