It was Christmas Eve, and Marquis Teague and Trahson Burrell of the Memphis Hustle — the G-League affiliate of the Grizzlies — were boarding an Envoy Air-operated plane in Dallas to fly to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for their next game. (Envoy is the former American Eagle brand and is owned by American Airlines.)
The players were seated in coach, but on their way through the first class part of the cabin two people gave them blankets that are handed out to passengers in first class, according to multiple reports. Teague (the younger brother of Jeff Teague of the Timberwolves, Marquis has played in 88 NBA games) and Burrell sat down in coach, but reportedly were confronted by a flight attendant who accused them of stealing the blankets from first class. The pair denied it, tempers escalated, Burrell sounded threatening, the flight attendant refused to fly with the pair on board, according to The Undefeated at ESPN. The players were asked to leave the plane.
Hustle assistant coach Darnell Lazare put it well.
This is far from the first problem for American Airlines with African-American passengers — there have been enough complaints that the NAACP issued a warning about African-Americans flying the airline. Both players are African-American, as was the flight attendant.
Eventually, the two were flown to Sioux Falls first class, and the airline issued an apology through The Undefeated.
“We apologize for what occurred on this flight,” American Airlines spokesman Joshua Freed told The Undefeated. “We take pride in bringing people together, and we know that on this flight we let some of our customers down. Our team at American, along with Envoy Air, is reviewing what happened and will be reaching out to [the two players and the assistant coach].”