SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) — Two black men said they were humiliated when staffers at their New Jersey gym twice called police on them and wrongly accused them of not paying, despite one of them being a member for eight years.
Rachid Maiga, 27, and Tshyrad (shah’-RAHD) Oates, 25, told WNBC-TV they were playing basketball for a few minutes at the LA Fitness club in Secaucus on April 15 when an employee asked them to leave.
The dispute appeared to be resolved, but the pair said a club manager soon confronted them and told them to leave and called police. The two men said they felt like suspects as officers escorted them to the lobby.
Oates later posted videos of the confrontations, and the Irvine-Calif.-based company apologized. The three employees directly involved in the incident are no longer with the company, according to LA Fitness.
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Maiga, a semi-pro basketball player, had been a club member for eight years and even paid a premium for the location because of its prized basketball court.
“I’m not the type of person that likes to put my problems out there,” Maiga said. “This has happened to me before — racial profiling.”
Civil rights attorney William Wagstaff III, who represents the men, said LA Fitness’ apology wasn’t sincere. “If that video had not gone viral, they wouldn’t have apologized,” he said.
Maiga said he won’t return to the Secaucus gym because he doesn’t feel welcome there.
“We have to say something, continue to speak up, not be nervous to have this conversation.” Oates said. “We want people to talk about it until they realize it’s wrong.”