Attorneys Dan Stormer and David Washington of Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai LLP filed the claim July 4th in Los Angeles federal court on behalf of clients Joel Stallworth, TaMiya Dickerson and their young son. The suit names Nike Corporation and former Nike store manager Wendy Magee.
The racial profiling incident occurred in July 2019. The couple had just purchased a basketball for their 18-month old-son at the Nike store on the Santa Monica Promenade. Upon exiting the store, they were accosted by manager Magee, who loudly and publicly insisted they’d stolen the ball.
Joel said, “As I got out of the store, I heard a commotion behind me … and [Magee] was spewing out accusations.”
TaMiya confirmed, “I see this woman lunging towards him … this White woman telling him, ‘Give me that ball back! You took that ball!’ that’s what I heard.” TaMiya recorded the incident on her cell phone, which shows Magee and Santa Monica Police confronting the couple and claiming they were shoplifting, while they explain that they had a receipt for the ball.
Dan Stormer said, “They were purchasing a basketball, the first basketball for their young son. For many of us that would mean nothing, but for Joel and TaMiya whose family histories are exceptional tributes to overcoming discrimination and adversity through athletics, this was a huge personal moment that resonated with them.”
TaMiya explained, “Being in that store and seeing him play with that ball was really a special moment, and it was robbed from us … which hurts me the most because it’s not something that we can get back.”
Although manager Magee had a history of racist behavior – company hotline complaints had been filed against her for profiling customers and disparaging co-workers of color — Nike fired her for leaving the store to go after stolen property, a technical violation.
Joel pointed out that Magee’s decision to call police was not only embarrassing (police belittled him in front of his son), but put him and his family in danger, considering law enforcement’s violent and sometimes fatal treatment of Black people. He said, “Nike ignored complaints about Wendy Magee to the point where her actions could have easily caused my death. What’s the value of a life? I hope it’s more than a $12 basketball.”
For both Joel and TaMiya, Nike was “one of the good guys,” a supporter of black athletes and Black Lives Matter. In fact Joel, an All American athlete, was sponsored by Nike when he won a gold medal in IAAF (World Athletics) track competition. The couple has since changed their tune. The complaint states, “Dickerson describes the feeling of betrayal as akin to witnessing a close family member that she looks up to turn out to be a serial abuser.”
Dan Stormer asserted that “Nike has created a totally hypocritical ad campaign supposedly supporting Black Lives Matter. In reality, their completely White paid leadership has implemented and supported a corporate policy that allows African American customers to be treated as if they are all criminals whose every move must be closely scrutinized once they enter a Nike store.”
David Washington said, “Nike built a frictionless machine to take money and labor from Black and Brown people while simultaneously paying them back in humiliation and exploitation. It’s time to change the way that machine operates. My clients intend to hold Nike responsible for the harms caused by this corporate malfeasance and hypocrisy. They were completely innocent yet ended up being detained by the police.“
The complaint states that “Nike bears full responsibility for the horrifying and deeply embarrassing ordeal it put this family through,” and seeks compensation for unlawful detention, false arrest, assault, infliction of emotional distress and other damages. It states that “Nike’s clever marketing, [which is] intended to profit from Black America’s desire for equal treatment can only go so far to cover up the reality that is Nike’s problematic culture…The trauma that Nike has brought upon [them] and Nike’s total lack of remorse for the same make clear that Nike’s image is nothing more than a marketing ploy to access the wealth of the Black community.”