In the current racial climate in America not even NFL stars are free from the burdens of racial perception. Indianapolis Colts linebacker, Darius Leonard shared a story about his recent trip to a Florence, South Carolina, Chipotle. A trip which led to what could have been a potentially life-threatening situation.
The 2018 HBCU Gameday Player of the Year from South Carolina State was out with a group of friends when a manager ordered them to leave. Stating that a white customer claimed the group had been “verbally abusive.”
Leonard recalls this moment as “Scary” when informed that the police could get involved because of the dispute.
“When you think about being a Black male now in America, and to hear that they want to involve the police — the first thing that went in my mind was I have a wife and a kid,”… “If the police is involved, you’re thinking you’re not making it home. For me to have to sit there and think that my life is in jeopardy just because I’m sitting there eating with my family, not causing no problem, is scary.”
Allegedly, the complaint made by the customer was a lie, according to Leonard.
“That’s what being Black in America is right now,” Leonard said in the video. “Us not even doing anything wrong, going out to eat with your family, just trying to spend a little bit of quality time. You can’t even enjoying eating anymore.”
More than a football player
The 6’2, 234-pound linebacker was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He finished his rookie season with 163 combined tackles (111 solo), eight pass deflections, seven sacks and one interception. His 163 tackles led the NFL and broke the Colts’ franchise record. Leonard was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, first-team All-Pro and selected to the Pro Bowl.
Leonard said that the manager; who made his party leave after threatening to call the police on them, changed his demeanor after finding out that Leonard was in the NFL.
“It sucks that you have to be someone in the public eye that they look up to to get treated equally,” Leonard said. “Besides me playing football or anything, I am a human being. I want to be treated as everyone else.”
Since the incident, the Chipotle CEO and chairman Brian Niccol said in a statement that the manager has been suspended while the restaurant investigates the incident. Chipotle has a “zero tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind.”
Sorry is not enough
But this apology just isn’t enough for Leonard.
“Just firing the manager is not gonna do everything,” Leonard said on First Take. “What you need to do is go out and continue to show a diverse community that that’s not who we are. And that’s what I want them to do: I want them to step up and take a step forward into change, instead of just apologizing.”
The incident caused the Colts to release a statement supporting their player.
“Darius’s experience demonstrates the struggle so many Black Americans and people of color face every day,” the team said. “It also demonstrates why we need serious action from our government leaders, law enforcement, businesses, and everyday Americans to end systemic racism and injustice and to continue this important dialogue on how to inspire positive change in our country.”