California parents buying toddler his first basketball say they were racially profiled, accused of stealing at Nike store

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SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Two African American parents are upset, alleging they were racially profiled when a store manager falsely accused them of shoplifting a $12 basketball from the Nike store in downtown Santa Monica, California.

The heated dispute was captured on cellphone footage as police were called to the Third Street Promenade on July 5.

Joel Stallworth told KTLA on Wednesday that he had already paid for the ball and left the store but a manager followed him out and demanded to see a receipt. He said the whole experience was humiliating.

Stallworth said he decided to buy the ball after his 18-month-old son, Sammy, picked it up inside the store and began carrying it around.

It was to be Sammy's first basketball.

A short time after they completed their purchase and left, Stallworth said a manager called police and demanded to see his receipt.

They showed it to her to prove they paid for the ball.

"To accuse somebody of stealing, you need to have evidence, right? So she just accused me. She had zero evidence that I stole anything. She couldn't have evidence because I bought it. She discriminated against me," Stallworth said. "She planted an evil seed in the officer, so as soon as the officer came up to me, he said, 'Sir, give me the stolen ball.'"

Stallworth said the manager never apologized. The family has hired an attorney.

"What we're hoping to do is to get Nike to have some sort of understanding and meeting of the minds to find out if this was an isolated act, or is this something that is more pervasive within the society of the employees that they hire," attorney Stephen King said.

Stallworth said he is a business owner and he would never accuse someone of stealing without evidence.

In a statement emailed to KTLA Thursday, Nike said it has apologized to the family and is investigating.

“We are taking the recent situation at our Santa Monica store very seriously, and we are currently investigating the facts," wrote KeJuan Wilkins, the vice president of North America Communications. "We have reached out to the family to express our deepest apologies, and we will continue to work with our teams to ensure we deliver on our expectations for consumer experiences.”

KTLA also reached out to the Santa Monica Police Department, but has not heard back.

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