On Monday night, after video from a Black woman showed her son being denied service at Ouzo Bay because of his attire, even though a white boy who was similarly dressed had just finished his meal, the restaurant’s owner, Atlas Restaurant Group, released a statement promising to change.
Atlas apologized to the woman who posted the video, Marcia Grant, and her son, Dallas, and said the manager seen enforcing the dress code had been placed on indefinite leave.
“We have addressed this issue with all managers and key staff at all properties and have spoken to many stakeholders who have contacted us,” the statement said. “All Atlas employees will continue to receive diversity and inclusion training during this very important time.
“We know we failed in this instance and sincerely hope to be afforded the opportunity to meet with Marcia Grant and her son, who both deserved better.”
But that didn’t stop video of the encounter from bouncing around the internet on Tuesday. As of this writing, Grant’s original video has been viewed more than 360,000 times, and a version posted to Twitter has been streamed at least 7.9 million times.
The latter’s virality is due in no small part to Rex Chapman, a 12-year veteran of the NBA who spent time with the Charlotte Hornets, Washington Bullets, Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns between 1988 and 2000.
Chapman’s Twitter page has become a sort of clearinghouse for funny videos and feel-good content. All of it started with a basketball-related gimmick where Chapman would share videos of people falling, getting whacked or experiencing some other form of bodily harm and pose the rules-related question, “Block or charge?”
Now, it runs the gamut from cute dog videos to inspirational stories to anything remotely humorous.
“A social media influencer. I’m not even sure what that means,” Chapman told ESPN in March. “Me, an influencer? Man, I hope not.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world, Chapman started highlighting moments of human connection amid social distancing regulations. His account became what Time magazine described as “a daily tonic for bored, stressed-out people during a quarantine, a pitch-perfect mixture of silliness and heart, all-too needed for our times.”
And now, with protests across the country in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and others, Chapman has used his platform to highlight police brutality and racial injustice.
Which brings us to Ouzo Bay. On Tuesday morning, Chapman posted the video of Grant’s encounter along with the message, “Dress codes only apply to some of us — apparently. This is ridiculously heartbreaking…”
From there, it took off. And a number of Chapman’s celebrity followers began sharing his tweet and adding their own commentary.
“Rules, laws, dress codes, voting, education, jobs, housing and on and on and on… and folks swear its all in our minds,” said actress Gabrielle Union.
Rules, laws, dress codes, voting, education, jobs, housing and on and on and on… and folks swear its all in our minds. https://t.co/dtrwMAQPtX
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) June 23, 2020
“2020 or 1950?” wondered all-pro NFL wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
2020 or 1950? https://t.co/YSr15zOB2j
— Deandre Hopkins (@DeAndreHopkins) June 23, 2020
Ty Johnson, a running back with the Detroit Lions and former player at the University of Maryland, shared his own story about getting denied entry to a bar in Detroit because he was wearing ripped jeans and Air Jordan sneakers. “After I told him I was there to see my teammates, the first thing I saw was a guy in a Christmas tree costume drunk with a group friends dancing. Casual my ass.”
A bar in Detroit tried me and my ro saying we couldn’t come in because our ripped jeans and Jordan’s weren’t “casual”. After I told him I was there to see my teammates, the first thing I saw was a guy in a Christmas tree costume drunk with a group friends dancing. Casual my ass https://t.co/fpntUGm7Di
— Ty Johnson (@T_Johns6) June 24, 2020
Swin Cash, a retired WNBA player and executive with the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, said her heart broke for “this young black boy has to stand there & witness this bs while looking at a young white boy wearing the same clothing!”
She added: “That’s trauma for a child. Salute to his mom for calling out the Bs against her child.”
This video is disgusting! Yes it pissed me off. But what 💔 is the fact this young black boy has to stand there & witness this bs while looking at a young white boy wearing the same clothing! That’s trauma for a child. Salute to his mom for calling out the Bs against her child. https://t.co/LLUUwcpoK8
— Swin Cash (@SwinCash) June 23, 2020
“Unreal. I would have blown up by this point if I were the mom…” said tennis legend Martina Navratilova.
Unreal. I would have blown up by this point if I were the mom… https://t.co/MN2tq0qd4l
— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) June 23, 2020
Former NFL all-pro receiver Terrell Owens chimed in with, “I swear WE don’t be making this stuff up!! 🤷🏾♂️🤷🏾♂️🤷🏾♂️ #RACISM”
— Terrell Owens (@terrellowens) June 23, 2020
This is just a sampling.
Chapman later clarified to his 790,000-plus followers “This is Atlas Restaurant Group — which owns the restaurant ‘Ouzo Bay’.” He erroneously added the company is owned by the Hunt Valley-based conservative TV station conglomerate Sinclair Broadcast Group. (Atlas co-owners Alex and Eric Smith are brothers and the sons of Frederick G. Smith, who owns Sinclair along with his brothers David, Robert and J. Duncan.)
By 2:05 p.m. on Tuesday, Atlas put out a second statement that said the company stands “against all forms of racism” and believes Black lives matter.
The statement outlined the actions the company already had taken–now saying two managers had been fired–and added that Atlas was unsuccessful in its attempts to reach Grant and her son.
The group also announced the formation of an advisory board on “corporate social responsibility,” including social justice.
“Our goal is to create long-term, sustainable change that dramatically improves the quality of life for everyone around us,” the second statement said. “We are eager to include citizens of the Baltimore community on this advisory board.”
Atlas wants to hear about the changes they can make to improve not only the company’s culture, but that of the city at large, the statement said.
It remains to be seen if that pledge will resonate.
“He knows I’ll always fight for him,” Marcia Grant said. “We just have to keep on pushing for social justice.”
And what is clear is that over the last couple hours–now 24 hours after the second statement was released–the video on Chapman’s page had been viewed an additional 300,000 times.