Earlier this month, we saw what happened when two men tried to Starbucks while black at a Center City store. Then, even before uproar over that incident died down, some women had a golfing-while-black situation in York County, Pa.
Lucky for them, they weren’t handcuffed and arrested as Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were in the Starbucks case. But it was still a traumatizing experience. A video of it has since gone viral, sparking similar widespread condemnation and complaints about racism.
It started around 11 a.m. on April 21. Five women, all members of an informal group of experienced golfers called Sisters in the Fairway, gathered at the Grandview Golf Club in York County to enjoy a day on the links. Everything was great — at first.
“We were actually having good drives,” recalled Sandra Thompson, 50, a lawyer who has been golfing for about five years.
A man who identified himself as a club owner approached two of the women and complained that they were moving too slowly. The women tried to continue playing but were met again with the same complaint. When management offered to refund their fees, they informed course officials that they were members. Management offered to refund their membership dues, as well.
“We were the only African Americans that were out there and we were the only women that were out there that we were aware of,” recalled Myneca Ojo, one of the group members.
As the pressure mounted, Thompson, who’s also the president of the York County chapter of the NAACP, pointed out, “Do you realize that this is a Starbucks situation?”
The women tried to shake it off and resume playing but by hole nine, three of them had had enough and exited the course, leaving Ojo and Thompson behind to complete the full 18 holes.
The remaining women attempted to tee off after taking a short break — as is customary after completing the ninth hole — but were again interrupted, by five members of Grandview’s management.
On a video, one of them approaches the women in an aggressive manner. Another gets him to back off, saying the police already have been called. Meanwhile, the women’s three golf buddies, who were staying in touch by text, were getting frantic.
“We understand what happens when police are called on black people sometimes,” Thompson pointed out.
Northern York County Regional Police arrived but wisely didn’t make any arrests. But they never should have been called in the first place. The female golfers weren’t criminals. They weren’t violent. They were middle-aged women who wanted to play golf.
“We pretty much live our lives around the golf course,” pointed out Ojo, director of diversity and inclusion for a state agency.
In hindsight, the women got off easy, considering what happened at Starbucks.
Earlier this month, LA Fitness had a similar happening when employees in Secaucus, N.J., called the police on two men working out at the facility after falsely accusing them of not paying.
Starbucks plans to close on May 29 to conduct nationwide training about racial biases. It’s a positive step because people need to be taught that it’s not okay to sic the police on nonviolent customers over dumb stuff. State Senator Vincent J. Hughes (D., Phila.) has called for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to launch an investigation into what happened at Grandview.
“I’m just so damned frustrated,” Hughes said on his website. “We have to deal with situations like this too frequently. This time, police determined it was not a matter they should have been involved in, but it is appalling that someone would call the police for a nonviolent incident where the only crime was being black on a public golf course.”
A Grandview employee said club owners weren’t available to comment Friday. One of the club owners, JJ Chronister, had previously told the York Daily Record that the club regretted its actions but later issued a statement saying, “In the past players who have not followed the rules, specifically pace of play, have voluntarily left at our request as our scorecard states. In this instance, the members refused to leave so we called police to ensure an amicable result.”
Note to Grandview: There’s nothing “amicable” about having the police called on you, especially when you’re black.