“When you think about being a Black male now in America, and to hear that they want to involve the police — the first thing that went in my mind was I have a wife and a kid,” Leonard told ESPN’s First Take on Friday. “If the police is involved, you’re thinking you’re not making it home. For me to have to sit there and think that my life is in jeopardy just because I’m sitting there eating with my family, not causing no problem, is scary.”
Leonard, who addressed his experience in an Instagram video Thursday, said he was dining with family and friends, all of whom are non-white, at a Florence, South Carolina, Chipotle when a manager ordered them to leave, saying a white customer claimed they were being verbally abusive.
That allegation by the customer was a lie, Leonard said.
“That’s what being Black in America is right now,” Leonard said in the video. “Us not even doing anything wrong, going out to eat with your family, just trying to spend a little bit of quality time. You can’t even enjoying eating anymore.”
Leonard said the manager had a “terrible attitude” and made his party leave after threatening to call the police. He told First Take that the manager’s demeanor changed after he found out the linebacker’s identity, but that was disheartening as well.
“It sucks that you have to be someone in the public eye that they look up to to get treated equally,” Leonard said. “Besides me playing football or anything, I am a human being. I want to be treated as everyone else.”
Chipotle CEO and chairman Brian Niccol said in a statement to the Indianapolis Star that the manager has been suspended while the restaurant investigates the incident, adding that the chain has a “zero tolerance policy for discrimination of any kind.”
Leonard said he spoke with Niccol on Thursday night but said he is looking for more than an apology.
“Just firing the manager is not gonna do everything,” Leonard said on First Take. “What you need to do is go out and continue to show a diverse community that that’s not who we are. And that’s what I want them to do: I want them to step up and take a step forward into change, instead of just apologizing.”
The Colts also released a statement to show support for Leonard.
“Darius’s experience demonstrates the struggle so many Black Americans and people of color face every day,” the team said. “It also demonstrates why we need serious action from our government leaders, law enforcement, businesses, and everyday Americans to end systemic racism and injustice and to continue this important dialogue on how to inspire positive change in our country.”