FLORENCE, S.C. — South Carolina native and NFL star linebacker Darius Leonard shared a passionate message about being Black in America after he said he was kicked out of a South Carolina restaurant.
Leonard grew up in the Pee Dee Region, in both Marion and Dillon Counties. He also played college football at South Carolina State University.
Leonard, who now plays for the Indianapolis Colts, posted the video to his Facebook page Thursday, saying he was with three other Black men and a mixed race woman at a Chipotle in Florence, South Carolina when a manager approached them at the end of their meal and asked if there was a problem. Leonard said the manager told the group a White male said the group had been verbally abusing him.
"It was basically a lie," Leonard said.
Leonard's group was kicked out of the restaurant.
"We know that if that manager would have called the cops right then and there, we know what would have went down," he said. "And it's wrong in America.
"That's what being Black in America is right now. Us not doing anything wrong, going out to eat with your family, just trying to spend quality time. You can't even enjoy eating anymore," Leonard said.
Leonard said the manager approached their table "with a terrible attitude."
"For us to get kicked out of Chipotle for he said, she said and the White guy basically laughing as we were getting kicked out...that's the injustice that we're talking about. That's why people take knees. That's why people are protesting. That's why people are upset. And I'm very upset," Leonard said.
In a statement to 13News, Chipotle Chairman and CEO Brian Niccol said the company is investigating the incident and has suspended the manager while the investigation is ongoing. Niccol also said he has reached out to Leonard about the incident.
Niccol's full statement reads:
"We are currently investigating the incident involving Darius Leonard in Florence, South Carolina. We have a zero tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind and we have suspended our manager while we conduct a thorough investigation. I’ve personally reached out to Darius and I’m committed to ensuring the appropriate action is taken once the investigation concludes."
Leonard said his experience is similar to those Black people experience on a daily basis.