When Live 5 first reported on an African-American man’s claims that Wild Wing had discriminated against him and his party — a story that has since gone national and severely damaged the Wild Wing brand — I was struck by one key element of the report, or to be more specific, the absence of one key element: Namely that Michael Brown, the man who made the allegation, said that his party filmed a confrontation with Wild Wing management, and yet the Live 5 report didn’t carry the video.
Now, this wasn’t any old video, mind you. According to Brown, the video itself was the reason why he and his 24 other friends were asked to leave the North Charleston Wild Wing. Live 5 reports:
Brown says while he was talking to the shift manager, someone in his group began videotaping the conversation. Brown says that’s when the manager became upset and refused to seat them.
“I asked her I want to be clear with you,” says Brown. “I said so you’re telling me I have to leave. She said I have a right to deny you service. I said so you’re asking me to leave because you’re upset because he was recording you, after we’ve waited for two hours, and after you’ve already pretty much discriminated on us, and she answered yes.”
You can easily see how the absence of the video in question would be of some concern, yes?
Well, in the days that followed the Live 5 report, the alleged Wild Wing discrimination story went national; online, it was picked by two heavies, the Huffington Post and the Drudge Report, and no doubt Brown’s tale was shared and liked and retweeted scores of time.
Sometime later, a Wild Wing worker reportedly contacted an online site called Radio Facts and had this to say about the incident:
You’re only getting one side of story here. I work at the restaurant and your representation of the events is way off base. The group was being loud and obnoxious to both customers and staffers. They kept complaining about their long wait and were talking about how “whitey” was able to get seated, but they were not. The problem was that they had a large group and insisted on sitting next to each other. We only had one area that could accommodate their large group and the patrons in that area were not done. So yes, some “whities” were able to be seated before them, but only because they were going to a different area. We also seated non-whites in other areas too…They made this a racial issue before anything. One of the guests also insulted a deaf white girl because she didn’t respond to one of them telling her to move (she was deaf and didn’t hear them) They were also all standing in the middle of the walk way, making it difficult for customers to leave. We asked them if they could move over, but they said they can stand wherever they want, and if we wanted them out of the way then we should seat them. The customer that was offended was offended by a particular individual’s constant uses of the word “n*gger” When asked to stop, he threw out a long string of racial epithets against one of my co-workers.
Eventually, the Post and Courier decided it was time to address the matter. This time, Brown’s story mentioned an earlier confrontation between his party and two other Wild Wing patrons:
Brown said he and his party had been waiting in the restaurant’s lobby for about an hour when they had a run-in with two white women who attempted to maneuver their way through the crowd to get to the hostess’ counter.
One of the women stepped on his sister-in-law’s foot and cursed at her, he said. Then, without explanation, the hostess seated those women first before Brown’s party, he said.
Brown’s sister in-law, 28-year-old Chelsea Green of North Charleston, said their group continued to wait for another hour before a manager told them that they weren’t being seated because the two women complained that they felt threatened.
“They should have given us the option to leave and go to another restaurant instead of making us wait around for nothing,” Green said. “It was embarrassing because they made us look like we’re a bunch of criminals.”
Today, Andy Paras of the P&C posted video purportedly of the incident. It’s of poor quality, but if it’s the actual video, it adds additional perspective to the story. Watch it. (UPDATE: As of 1:59 p.m., the video, which appeared to show some sort of altercation between several individuals, has been removed. At some point, actual footage of the incident may surface. At 12:55 p.m., I sent an email to Wild Wing seeking comment about the video, including confirmation that it was of the incident in question. UPDATE 08.30.13: As of 12:11 p.m. the alleged video of the incident is back online.)
At this point, I’m not going to make any calls on this incident, but so far nothing has changed my mind that something very important is missing from this story.
Here’s HuffPo’s rather hasty report on the incident: