A black family says they were racially-profiled by a Nike manager in Santa Monica, Calif., and accused of stealing a $12 basketball they purchased for their 18-month-old son. The father involved in the incident said that the moment should have been a happy memory for the two, but instead, resulted in the police being called and the return of the purchased basketball.
On July 5, Joel Stallworth and TaMiya Dickerson were visiting the Nike store at the Santa Monica Place shopping mall, along with their young son, Sammy, NBC News reports. According to Stallworth, in a post shared on Dickerson's Facebook profile, he carried his son to the men's department on his shoulders, located upstairs. While the family was initially only looking around the store and did not intend to purchase any items, Stallworth noticed his son playing with a small basketball.
"I thought to myself, I want to buy my son his first ball here at Nike because I really love the brand," Stallworth shared. "Little did I know after purchasing this orange toddler size basketball that I would be followed and profiled as I leave the store."
Stallworth and Dickerson say that after they left the store with the basketball they had purchased, the store manager followed them outside, demanding that they "return the ball you stole."
"I looked at her in disbelief. Like it was a joke but she wouldn’t stop following my family and I. She reached out saying again return the stolen ball," Stallworth wrote. "I looked back at her and told her, 'I didn’t steal the ball, I paid for this' as we begin to exchange words I keep walking."
Eventually, the manager flagged down nearby Santa Monica police officers for help.
Dickerson shared a video of the interaction, involving at least three police officers, on her Facebook page.
"This is ridiculous," Dickerson can be heard saying in the video. "We purchased this basketball in the store."
Stallworth told KTLA: "She had zero evidence that I stole anything. She couldn't have evidence because I bought it. She discriminated against me. She planted an evil seed in the officer, so as soon as the officer came up to me, he said, 'Sir, give me the stolen ball.'"
The couple showed police their receipt to support their claims, and the police returned the ball to the family. Ultimately, the family made the decision to return to the store for a refund of their purchase, which they no longer wanted after the incident.
Stallworth and Dickerson did not immediately respond to Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment.
“We are taking the recent situation at our Santa Monica store very seriously, and we are currently investigating the facts,” a statement KeJuan Wilkins, vice president of North America Communications, provided to Yahoo Lifestyle, read. “We have reached out to the family to express our deepest apologies, and we will continue to work with our teams to ensure we deliver on our expectations for consumer experiences.”
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle: