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Wheelchair Basketball Team Alleges Discrimination After Being Turned Away from Murfreesboro Restaurant

February 21, 2024
Source: WSMV News

The Lakeshore Foundation team has created shirts with the words “fire hazard” to fundraise for future basketball tournaments.

Parents of a youth basketball team say they were turned away from a Murfreesboro [Tennessee] restaurant over the weekend, despite the establishment being mostly empty.

The team of seven players — aged 7 to 14 — showed up with their families at Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar around 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, but were allegedly told by staff that their group of 27 couldn’t be seated.

Erica Bowen, whose daughter is on the Birmingham-based Lakeshore Foundation team, said they were told they presented a fire hazard.

“There was no doubting, every player there knew that we could not eat there and that we were asked to leave,” Bowen said. “So when my daughter asked me about why we could not eat there, for the first time I had to explain, that it’s that they were scared of so many wheelchairs, and that’s kind of how I explained it to her.”

The Lakeshore Foundation team was in town for a basketball tournament hosted by ABLE Youth and its Executive Director, Amy Saffell. The ABLE Youth organization — which relies on donations — uses athletics to motivate children who are in wheelchairs.

After Saturday’s incident at the restaurant, Saffell said she filed a formal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) complaint with the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division on behalf of the team.

“Of course I want this establishment to change their ways, I think that would be wonderful, but I also want just further understanding of what people with disabilities go through, so maybe in the future other establishments won’t make the same mistakes,” Saffell said.

The basketball team and their families ended up eating dinner at a different Murfreesboro restaurant, Bowen said.

Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar apologized about the incident in a statement from the CEO of Good Times Restaurants, Ryan Zink, which reads:

“On Saturday the Lakeshore Foundation Basketball Team and their families came to our restaurant to celebrate their tournament and enjoy a meal together. We tried to accommodate their desire to be seated together and served at the same time. We missed had some missteps in the process. That’s on us and we apologize for not delivering on the service and experience expectation that brought them to Bad Daddy’s. We extend our sincere apology to each member of the team and their families. We would like to make this right for them and will work with the team to do so. We also see this as a teaching moment for our staff and we will strive to do better.”

Disability advocates like Kasondra Farmer with Empower Tennessee said the incident points to the importance of the protections afforded to people with disabilities in the ADA.

“I was stunned, as somebody who has been a [disability] advocate here in Tennessee since I was three,” Farmer said. “It breaks my heart, we’re 34 years after the passing of the ADA and you would hope no child, no adult would have to experience these things anymore. I would want these kids to know there are adults who have been fighting for them, and are alongside them and will continue to do so.”

[Note: The online article includes a captioned video.]

Information about Lakeshore Foundation

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