By Wendy Widom
Chicago (CBS)—A social media post about an allegedly racially charged incident at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Naperville went viral on Facebook.
“I usually don’t post these types of things but we think people need to be aware of the situation,” wrote Mary Vahl. She was part of a group of 12 children and six adults who went to Buffalo Wild Wings in Naperville on Saturday after the children’s basketball game.
In the post, Vahl claims a Buffalo Wild Wings employee told her husband, Justin, that two diners — a man and woman who they were told regularly frequent the restaurant — did not want to sit next to the group of 18 “because he’s “racist.”” The group of 18 was multiracial.
The employee seated the group at two tables not far the couple. Shortly after, Mary claims another Buffalo Wild Wings employee approached the adults in the party to say a seating mistake had been made and their tables were reserved for another group. The group left soon after.
CBS 2 reached out to Buffalo Wild Wings and received this response via email: “We take this alleged incident very seriously and are conducting a thorough, internal investigation. Buffalo Wild Wings values an inclusive environment and has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. We’re in direct communication with the guest to understand their account of what happened and to offer our deepest apologies for any unacceptable behavior.”
“It’s 2019. We’re supposed to be past this,” Marcus Riley, the children’s basketball coach, told CBS 2 about the group’s experience at Buffalo Wild Wings. He said as they were leaving the restaurant, the employee who had seated them had tears in his eyes and a patron stood up to hug members of the group.
Riley said he feels the weight of responsibility as the children’s coach. He told CBS 2, “A lot of the children go to predominantly white schools.” He said experiences like this make children question “what their friends and teachers think of them.”
Three of the children in the group spoke with CBS 2. “No one should experience what we experienced that day with racism,” said Mary and Justin’s son, Ethan, who is 9. His teammate K.J. Miller, 11, agreed, telling CBS 2, he thinks the company “could do more.” Dereon Smothers, 10, said the experience has been on his mind since Saturday.
Mary thought her Facebook post about the incident would reach “a couple of people” but did not anticipate it being shared thousands of times. She told CBS 2 that the responses to the post were mixed; some people were supportive while others thought the group should have left the restaurant earlier.
On Sunday, the boys played in the Build A Dream 3v3 Basketball Tournament in Oak Brook and, according to Justin, won the championship for the boys’ fifth and sixth grade division. “The boys are too young to realize it now but down the road they will be able to look back at this and realize what they accomplished,” Justin wrote on Facebook. “5 young boys of all different ethnicities worked together to achieve a common goal. Less than 24 hours after having to walk out of a restaurant where they weren’t wanted because the color of their skin.”