Black ESPN journalist says he was racially profiled by California home decor store employees who told him to use restroom in nearby police station because ‘it’s okay, they won’t arrest you’

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • A Bay Area store has issued a groveling apology after discovering that the group of black shoppers it intimidated included Marc J Spears
  • The ESPN veteran reporter claims he was racially profiled alongside his four black friends when they dropped into Anthem Interiors on an evening out
  • And he was told to try the police station and advised ‘they won’t arrest you!’ when he asked to use the bathroom
  • Boss Janelle Loevner claims all customers are told that, but that staff have now been ordered to drop the unfunny ‘schtick’

A veteran sports journalist has forced a groveling apology from a Bay Side home store after he revealed he was among a group of black shoppers side-eyed by overzealous security.

Marc J Spears claims his friends were racially profiled when they visited Anthem Interiors, while he was told to try the police station and advised ‘they won’t arrest you’, when he asked to use the restroom.

Spears, 51, said he felt a depressing familiarity when he entered the store in Healdsburg, California, with his five friends during a dinner and wine tasting evening on Saturday.

‘I walked in, and I could just feel it,’ the ESPN writer posted on Instagram.

‘Anybody that’s been racially profiled knows it when it’s happening.

Veteran Sports writer Marc J Spears was with four black friends when he claims they were racially profiled on a visit to Anthem Interiors in Healdsburg, California

Store founder and owner Janelle Loevner said it was 'devastating' to hear the claim and apologized for his experience

Store founder and owner Janelle Loevner said it was ‘devastating’ to hear the claim and apologized for his experience 

The store is one of a series in the popular home decor chain - but says it has no bathroom

The store is one of a series in the popular home decor chain – but says it has no bathroom  

‘The store clerks basically stared at us, kind of frowning.

‘You just kind of feel like somebody’s peeking at you, watching what you’re doing as if they expect you to rob them.’

He said that this time he resisted his usual urge to put staff at their ease by buying something expensive ‘to prove my worth and their wrong’.

But he did not want to resist the urge to go to the bathroom.

‘I tried to give the lady that worked there the benefit of the doubt by asking if she knew where the nearest bathroom was,’ he said.

‘She suggested that I go to the Healdsburg Police Department across the street to use their facilities. ‘Confused I asked her why would I go to the bathroom at a police station?

‘Her response was that it will be OK they won’t arrest you.’

The co-host of the Hulu series ‘The Conversations Project’ has more than half-a-million followers on social media, and sparked a near instant response from store owner Janelle Loevner when he recounted the experience online.

‘I do want to let you know that we send all patrons across the street to the police station to use the bathroom!’ she posted on Instagram.

The ESPN senior NBA writer is a popular and well-respected figure among colleagues

The ESPN senior NBA writer is a popular and well-respected figure among colleagues

Spears, 51, is also co-host the Hulu series ‘The Conversations Project’

Spears, 51, is also co-host the Hulu series ‘The Conversations Project’

‘This was not directed to you personally and I have heard our associates joke to our customers about sending people there no matter the person’s skin color.

‘I do see how it could have been misinterpreted, but I promise you that was not the intention.’

Spears’ followers voiced their sympathy and admiration for his restrained response.

‘I’m heated that you had to experience something like this, something that happens far too frequently,’ wrote Sean Cunningham.

‘Seriously!? Go to the bathroom at a police station, they won’t arrest you?’ added Kelly E Carter.

‘I’m glad you didn’t give her any of your hard-earned money to prove a point. Though maybe she could use it to take a diversity communications course on how to speak to potential customers.’

Spears said he immediately left after the exchange but had trouble dismissing the experience as he drove back to his hotel that evening.

‘I just started thinking more and more about it, and it really disturbed me,’ he added.

Loevner, who runs a chain of Anthem Interiors outlets across the Bay Area, said she has ordered staff to change the unfunny ‘schtick’ they deliver to customers asking for the bathroom.

‘I’m deeply sorry that was his experience,’ she told the SF Chronical.

‘I worked really long and hard to build a solid business. I care deeply about the community, my employees, about all of it — so for this to happen it’s just devastating.

The writer has more than 500,000 followers online and sparked an instant response when he recounted his experience on social media

The writer has more than 500,000 followers online and sparked an instant response when he recounted his experience on social media 

‘I don’t think I have any racist employees because if I did they would be the first ones exiting the company — there’s no way I would tolerate that.

‘It’s just a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances. I don’t think it was a racist one, but I’m not in Marc’s shoes, I didn’t grow up as a Black man in America.’

Spears said he ‘felt the apology was sincere’ and thanked Loevner for ‘some great dialogue and honest conversation’.

‘Respect and thank you. We move forward better,’ he added.

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