- A white venture capitalist in a private Minneapolis gym threatened to call the police on a group of black men after accusing them of not being allowed in the building.
- The men said they were tenants of the same building, renting out a WeWork office for their business.
- The man, who identified himself in the video as Tom Austin, is shown calling someone, saying there was a group “who don’t appear” to belong there.
- Austin told Business Insider he was sorry for his actions and he overreacted. He said he asked the men whether they were tenants because the property’s building manager had sent an email to tenants about concerns that non-tenants were using the gym and the gym could be shut if the problem persisted.
- According to the Star Tribune, Austin had his office lease terminated in the building where the incident took place.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A white venture capitalist in a Minneapolis gym threatened to call the police on a group of black men, accusing them of not being tenants of the building, just days after a black man died after being knelt on by a police officer in the same city.
“I’m a tenant here. Are you?” the man said in a video of the incident recorded by the group. They posted the video on Instagram on Tuesday on the account for their business, Top Figure.
The group responded they had an office in the building, but the man, who identified himself in the video as Tom Austin, continued: “What office? What office are you in?”
“As you guys can see we’re dealing with racism here,” one of the black men says. The men did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Business Insider.
The men declined to tell Austin which office they had in the building, MoZaic East, in Minneapolis’ Uptown neighborhood. The men rent an office in the WeWork in the building, according to their Instagram post.
“I’m calling 911 then,” Austin said. He then appears to call someone, saying “there’s a whole bunch of people who don’t appear to be” – before the audio becomes unclear.
Austin, CEO of investing firm F2 Group, according to his LinkedIn, said in a phone interview with Business Insider on Wednesday that in the video he was calling the building manager, not the police. The Minneapolis Police Department said there was no record of a request for police for this incident.
Austin said that he asked the men whether they were tenants because the property’s building manager, Nicole LaVere, had sent an email to tenants about concerns that non-tenants were using the gym and the gym could be shut if the problem persisted. Business Insider has asked Austin for a copy of the email, but have yet to independently confirm its existence.
LaVere’s email, Austin said, had asked tenants to each use their own FOBs to enter the gym. A FOB is required to enter and exit the gym, and the men were sharing one FOB among the group, Austin said.
He said when he asked if they had received the email about the matter, the men asked him who Nicole was and were unaware of the email. It’s possible that as WeWork tenants, the men did not receive an email directly from the building nor would they be aware of the building manager.
LaVere was not immediately available for comment.
“We all pay rent here, and this man demanded that we show him our key cards or he will call the cops on us,” the men said on Instagram. “We are sick and tired of tolerating this type of behavior on a day-to-day basis, and we feel that we had to bring light onto this situation.”
Austin told Business Insider he was sorry for his actions and he overreacted. “I thought I was being helpful” to the building manager by reporting the men, Austin said.
He also said he and the men continued to exercise in the gym together for 45 minutes following the incident shown in the video.
Austin told Business Insider that when he left the gym, he asked the men “if we’re good” and that the group fist-bumped and moved on. When he went home that night, he thought the issue had been resolved, Austin said.
“I thought everything was fine,” Austin said. “I was shocked to see that video.”
Austin also provided a written statement.
Yes, I f—-d up. Should have handled it differently. Not my job to have done anything. Building management had been complaining that tenants were allowing their friends to trespassing and use a private gym that was authorized only for building tenants. Said hello to everyone when I walked in. But after working out for 10 minutes, I noticed that one of the tenants seemed to have brought 4 friends and I complained to them that this isn’t right. One guy was letting his other 4 friends in and out of the building with his pass card FOB. Four guys didn’t have a FOB. When I said something, they got in my face accusing me of racial profiling. I said it wasn’t racial profiling and it was all about suspicious activity/behavior. Because they were in my face and didn’t have pass cards, I took photos and called the property manager. I only called the building property manager! Never called 911. I told them I’d have done the same thing if they were white, or even a bunch of girls who were trespassing. What surprises me is that we worked out in gym together for another 45 minutes. I had already apologized to them for making them feel it was a race issue and I listened to all their grievances about “being black.” When I left the gym, at the end of the night I said “Have a great night, hope we’re good.” and did a fist bump with each of them! There is way more to the story. Fake news!
According to the Star Tribune, Austin had his office lease terminated in the building where the incident took place.
The incident comes days after a black man, 46-year-old George Floyd, died after being knelt on by a Minneapolis Police officer. The FBI is investigating the matter, and the death sparked protests in the city on Tuesday, where police deployed tear gas.
The incident also occurred the same day a white woman was shown in a video calling the police on a black man who had asked her to put her dog on a leash in an area where park rules require dogs to be leashed. The woman told police that “there’s an African American man threatening my life.” She was fired from her job as an executive at investment firm Franklin Templeton after the company reviewed the matter.
Asked whether he had considered the recent occurrences in Minneapolis and New York City, Austin said “it didn’t even occur to me.” He said his issue with the men was that it appeared they were not all tenants, and he had not considered their race.
A video of the incident in Minneapolis can be seen on Twitter, where it was widely shared.
a group of young black entrepreneurs have owned a office building in uptown minneapolis for over a year& got racially profiled at the private gym today🤦🏾♀️smh pic.twitter.com/iKmAuW5Tli
— nisa (@anisalrh) May 27, 2020
Rosie Perper contributed reporting.