Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai attorneys Dan Stormer, Barbara Hadsell, and David Clay Washington represent former Team USA Track Star, College Basketball Hall-of-Famer and Business Owner Joel Stallworth, as well as his spouse, CPA TaMiya Dickerson, and their young son S.S. in this lawsuit against Nike, Inc., Nike Retail Services, Inc., and their former flagship store manager Wendy Magee. The African American family is suing as a result of an incident that immediately followed Mr. Stallworth’s purchase of his son’s first basketball. Magee, who is white, followed them out of the Nike store, demanded that Mr. Stallworth give back the supposedly “stolen” ball, and attempted to snatch the ball from his hands. When Mr. Stallworth repeated that he had purchased the ball, Magee went to the Santa Monica police and falsely accused the Plaintiffs of stealing the basketball. Three armed Santa Monica Police Officers immediately surrounded and detained the family, demanding they give back the “stolen” ball even though they had paid for it. Nike had employed Magee for years despite documented complaints alleging racist behavior.
The Stallworth-Dickerson family is not the only victim of Nike’s toxic culture of giving free rein to bigotry in its retail establishments. On April 8, two people of color, Brittney Shaw and Edgar Hernandez, sued Nike and Magee for racial and sexual orientation discrimination in employment. In their complaint, Shaw and Hernandez allege Magee’s shocking abuse and purge of managerial employees of color wherein Magee “managed to abuse and remove 80-90% of her store’s managerial staff, most of whom were replaced by white women.”
In two recent orders, Judge Virginia Phillips (Central District of California) dealt blows to Nike’s defense. Defendants Nike Retail and Magee jointly moved to dismiss the family’s federal claims which seek to hold them accountable for unlawfully detaining them and denying the equal benefit of the laws on account of their race. The defendants also sought dismissal of the family’s California Ralph Act claims (threat of violence on account of race), assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, slander, false imprisonment, and negligent supervision and retention claims. Judge Phillips denied the defendants’ motion as to each of these claims, and the case has now moved into the discovery phase.
Attorney David Washington said, “According to Nike’s own internal research, Nike’s core consumers are people of color. This is why so much of Nike’s 3.6-billion-dollar annual advertising budget goes to fabricating an image that the company is a champion of equality. But if you peel back this pricey and curated veneer, it is immediately clear that Nike’s disproportionately white and male leadership is a closed circle that consistently rewards racism and bigotry at every level. Thankfully, America is waking up to Nike’s duplicity: In Oregon, we see a groundbreaking class action gender discrimination lawsuit at Nike’s corporate headquarters. Here in California, our clients, alongside the former employees suing Nike and Magee, are similarly refusing to remain silent about their abuse and humiliation. The world’s top athletes are doing the same: American heroes and Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles and Allyson Felix recently ended their partnerships with Nike on account of Nike’s mistreatment of athletes, employees, and customers. The time is now. Nike must take accountability for the toxic and racist culture that infects every level of the company.”