American Airlines Apologizes for Kicking Basketball Players Off Christmas Eve Flight
American Airlines released an apology to two black professional basketball players kicked off their flight after a flight attendant accused them of stealing blankets from first class.
Players for the Memphis Hustle, Marquis Teague and Trahson Burrell, were on a flight, operated by American's regional carrier Envoy Air, from Dallas-Fort Worth to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Christmas Eve. As they were walking down the aisle to their seats in economy, two first class passengers handed Teague and Burrell their blankets.
As they took their seats, a flight attendant, who was also black, accused the duo of stealing the blankets. The flight attendant refused to fly with Teague and Burrell on board and forced them, and their assistant coach, off the plane, according to The Undefeated.
An airline manager later apologized to the players and rebooked them on a first class flight from Dallas to Sioux Falls. However, by that time, the players had missed their team’s Christmas dinner. They made it to Sioux Falls in time for a game the following day.
“We apologize for what occurred on this flight,” American Airlines spokesman Joshua Freed said in a statement. “We take pride in bringing people together, and we know that on this flight we let some of our customers down.”
American Airlines said in a statement that they are reviewing the incident, alongside Envoy Air. They have reached out to the two players and their assistant coach.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) issued a “travel advisory” earlier this year, telling black passengers that “booking and boarding flights on American Airlines could subject them disrespectful, discriminatory or unsafe conditions.” In response, American Airlines implemented a racial bias training for all employees earlier this month.