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3 ASU football players share story of racism at Whataburger in Tempe

Tight end Nolan Matthews #88 of the Arizona State Sun Devils runs with the football ahead of defensive back Marcus Bruce #34 of the Sacramento State Hornets during the second half of the NCAAF game at Sun Devil Stadium on September 06, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Three Arizona State football players took to social media on Wednesday to outline allegations of racist conduct targeted at them at a fast food restaurant near campus.

Redshirt freshman defensive back Jordan Clark, sophomore tight end Nolan Matthews and freshman defensive back T Lee all posted on Twitter similar explanations of the story (warning: posts contain explicit language — read Clark, Matthews and Lee‘s explanations). The trio said they went to Whataburger near Rural Road and Apache Blvd., but the restaurant’s dining room was closed and was only serving the drive through lane.

According to all three social media posts, the three players didn’t have a car for the drive-through and therefore asked a woman if she could order their food for them and they would pay with their own money. She declined. The players allege that when the woman got to the window, she complained to the manager, who then gave her a meal for free. The woman shouted racial slurs at the players as she drove off, they said.

“The manager was unfazed,” Clark wrote. “He didn’t bat an eye, or think twice about what he had heard. He didn’t apologize to us for it happening, or show any sympathy at all.”

Clark said the manager threatened to call the police on the players, and that the manager accused the players of harassing people for food.

Whataburger responded with the same statement to all three players.

“We do not tolerate racism in any form and were horrified to hear how these customers were treated,” the statement said. “We are reinforcing training with our employee on how this incident was handled and expressed our apologies to players and their families for this terrible experience.”

The school confirmed that Sun Devil Athletics leadership met with the students about the incident. Arizona State University president Michael Crow also issued a statement:

“We are aware of the situation our student athletes reported happening on June 16 at Whataburger where they were subjected to racist behavior and name calling by a customer,” Crow’s statement said. “There is no excuse for this. It is a continuation of gross ignorance, racism and hatred that permeates facets of our society. We understand that Whataburger has stepped-up and requested more information. We strongly encourage Whataburger to fully investigate this situation and assess what steps it must take to deal with customers who exhibit this kind of behavior. It cannot be tolerated.

“Sun Devil Athletics is in continuous dialogue with student athletes about the issue of racism in our society and will use this instance as a learning moment. Our commitment to all of our students is that we will provide an environment free of racism and that when confronted with it, we will not shy away from addressing the issue and that we will provide resources and tools to help students navigate and manage through these situations.”

Clark’s father, Ryan, who played 13 years in the NFL, spoke about the incident on ESPN’s Get Up.

“As a black man and the father of a black young man, I’m happy he’s alive. Period,” Clark said. “That was my first thought.”

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