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Nike fires manager accused of racially profiling family over $12 ball, lawyer says

Black parents have accused a Santa Monica, California, Nike store manager of racially profiling them by following them for blocks and accusing them of shoplifting a $12 basketball they had purchased for their 18-month-old child, pictured here.
Black parents have accused a Santa Monica, California, Nike store manager of racially profiling them by following them for blocks and accusing them of shoplifting a $12 basketball they had purchased for their 18-month-old child, pictured here. Screen grab from Facebook video

A Southern California Nike store manager, accused of racially profiling a black family over a $12 basketball, has now been fired, according to the family’s lawyer.

Attorney Stephen King said Nike fired the manager of the downtown Santa Monica sporting goods store after she followed his clients for blocks and accused them of stealing a basketball they had just purchased for their 18-month-old child, the Santa Monica Daily Press reports.

“Our only recourse is to go to court and see if Nike is willing to make a change,” King said, blaming the incident on employee policies, training and perhaps a racially biased company culture, according to the newspaper. “If not, we’ll take it to a jury trial and have our peers decide if Nike did the right thing … The ball is in their court.”

Joel Stallworth and TaMiya Dickerson, the black parents of a toddler named Sammy, said the basketball they purchased on July 5 was supposed to be their son’s first — but after the manager tailed them, accused them of shoplifting and got Santa Monica police involved, they returned the ball with their receipt for a refund, City News Service reports.

Stallworth and Dickerson shared video clips from the incident on Facebook. The video includes an image of the receipt for the ball, as well as footage of the little boy holding it.

“This seems to be the American way for people like us,” Dickerson wrote in a Facebook post. “This has happened far too many times to me personally. My son, I would hope, will never have to experience this again.”

Nike representatives said in a statement that the company takes the racial profiling accusations “very seriously,” KABC reported.

“We are taking the recent situation at our Santa Monica store very seriously, and we are currently investigating the facts,” said KeJuan Wilkins, vice president of North America communications for Nike, according to the TV station. “We have reached out to the family to express our deepest apologies, and we will continue to work with our teams to ensure we deliver on our expectations for consumer experiences.”

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The family said the manager didn’t apologize once they showed her the receipt, KTLA reports.

“To accuse somebody of stealing, you need to have evidence, right? So she just accused me. She had zero evidence that I stole anything. She couldn’t have evidence because I bought it. She discriminated against me,” Stallworth said, according to KTLA. “She planted an evil seed in the officer, so as soon as the officer came up to me, he said, ‘Sir, give me the stolen ball.’”

A longer clip posted by KABC shows the family, manager and police interaction more fully.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.
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