Civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson and families affected by a racist customer at a Naperville Buffalo Wild Wings on Tuesday called on the company to diversify its board of directors and executive ranks and to increase the number of franchises owned by people of color.

The group threatened a boycott if conversations with company leadership don’t result in progress.

Jackson said he and the families will meet with Buffalo Wild Wings President Lyle Tick on Monday to discuss policies that will foster diversity and inclusion throughout the restaurant and its parent company, Inspire Brands Inc.

“If we don’t resolve it, there will be a national boycott,” Jackson told reporters at a press event at the South Side Rainbow/PUSH headquarters.

Previous story: Black customers say Buffalo Wild Wings told them to move

Marcus Riley of Bolingbrook, Ill., foreground, speaks during a press conference Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019 in Aurora, Ill., about how he and other families, background, were asked to move because others didn't want to sit by them at a Naperville, Ill., Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant. (Paul Valade/Daily Herald via AP)

Jackson was accompanied by Mary and Justin Vahl, Marcus Riley and family members. Riley and Justin Vahl recounted the Oct. 26 incident that caused widespread condemnation of Buffalo Wild Wings employees’ response to a racist customer.

“It still lives amongst us now,” Riley said, noting that the children there that day still carry the incident with them.

Vahl and Riley were among a party of 18 dining at the Buffalo Wild Wings in Naperville that was asked to move to different tables because a restaurant patron did not want to be seated near black people.

Vahl and Riley said they visited the Buffalo Wild Wings on 75th Street east of Illinois Route 59 about 8:30 p.m. with four other adults and 12 children after a youth basketball tournament to celebrate the birthday of one of the kids.

After they were seated, a manager asked the group to move to another location on the pretense that the table was already reserved, Vahl and Riley said. But the families were previously alerted by a host, a black man, who told them they had been seated near a regular customer who “doesn’t want black people sitting near him.”

The group then left the restaurant to dine and celebrate the birthday elsewhere.

At Tuesday’s news conference, Vahl and Riley thanked the host for alerting them, saying he was in tears as they left. The host then went to the back of the restaurant, took a photo of names and phone numbers of management, and sent the photo to one of the women in the group.

A restaurant spokesperson said the company conducted an investigation and “terminated the employees involved” — a service manager and a shift manager. The customer was also banned for life from all Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants.

A Buffalo Wild Wings spokesperson said later Tuesday that company representatives had spoken with members of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition on Monday to discuss ongoing efforts in response to the incident.

The company is implementing diversity training for all team members in its Naperville and Aurora locations by Nov. 22, among other initiatives.

“The company has been in communication with the affected families, as well as Naperville city leaders, Governor Pritzker and Rainbow/PUSH to use this incident an opportunity to improve, hear constructive feedback and inform a path forward,” the company said in a statement.


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