Two black basketball players removed from American Airlines flight after being falsely accused of stealing blankets

The company has apologised for the false accusations after Marquis Teague and Trahson Burrell were removed from a flight on Christmas Eve

Jack de Menezes
Thursday 28 December 2017 13:46 GMT
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Marquis Teague was one of two basketball players wrongly removed from an American Airlines flight
Marquis Teague was one of two basketball players wrongly removed from an American Airlines flight (Getty)

American Airlines has apologised after two black basketball players were kicked off a flight after being wrongly accused of stealing blankets from the first class cabin.

Marquis Teague and Trahson Burrell, who both play for National Basketball Association minor league team Memphis Hustle, were removed from a flight on Christmas Eve after being accused by a male flight attendant – who was also black – of taking the blankets without permission.

But American Airlines has since issued an apology to the pair – who were on their way from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for a match – after confirming that they had been given the blankets by other passengers as they walked through first class on their way to their seats.

“We apologise for what occurred on this flight. We take pride in bringing people together, and we know that on this flight we let some of our customers down,” said American Airlines spokesman Joshua Freed, who also confirmed that the incident is being reviewed internally.

“Our team at American, along with Envoy Air, is reviewing what happened, and will be reaching out to them.”

Neither Teague nor Burrell have commented on the incident, but their assistant coach, Darnell Lazere, took to Twitter to express his believe that the motive behind the false accusations was driven by their race.

Former Chicago Bulls player Marquis Teague was one of the passengers removed from the American Airlines flight
Former Chicago Bulls player Marquis Teague was one of the passengers removed from the American Airlines flight (Getty)

“It’s 2017 and a Flight attendant for @AmericanAir sees 2 young black athletes with blankets from first class, his 1st comment is ‘did you steal them’,” Lazere wrote on Twitter.

“How about you teach people to get the facts first before jumping to conclusions. #beingblackinamerica.”

The flight was operated by Envoy Air, a subsidiary of American Airlines, and both Teague and Burrell were given first class tickets and flown to their final destination later in the day, before going on to help Memphis Hustle defeat Sioux Falls Skyforce 131-115 on Christmas Day.

American Airlines has already faced accusations of unfair treatment towards passengers, with the civil rights group National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People [NAACP] reporting in October “a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines”.

As a result of the accusations, American Airlines has pledged to put its 120,000 employees through new “implicit-bias” training courses.

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