Naperville police chief: No evidence of hate crime in Buffalo Wild Wings incident

  • Naperville police say they are wrapping up their probe into a racial confrontation at a Buffalo Wild Wings but have found no evidence of a hate crime.

      Naperville police say they are wrapping up their probe into a racial confrontation at a Buffalo Wild Wings but have found no evidence of a hate crime. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 11/6/2019 11:09 PM

Naperville police say their investigation into a recent racial confrontation at a sports bar is nearly complete.

Chief Robert Marshall on Wednesday said police found no evidence of a hate crime in the Oct. 26 case in which a multiracial group of 18 diners was asked to switch seats because two white customers did not want to sit next to them at Buffalo Wild Wings on 75th Street.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Marshall said police were contacted by company officials after the establishment received a series of threatening telephone calls. Buffalo Wild Wings Chief Communications Officer Christopher Fuller said "the sports bar began receiving death threats" during its own internal probe of the incident.

Police investigated, Marshall said, but the restaurant chain declined to file charges or have officers continue looking into who placed the calls.

Marshall said he expects the probe to be completed by week's end, but the results likely will not be made public until Monday.

The confrontation was triggered by a white man, who officials have not identified, whose comments led managers at the restaurant to ask the party of 18 to move.

Fuller said the man, who does not live in Naperville, has been notified he is banned from all Buffalo Wild Wings locations and the company is working on protocol to ensure the ban is enforced "within the bounds of the law."

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News of the police investigation emerged the day after the six adults and 12 children affected held a news conference led by attorney Cannon Lambert calling on Buffalo Wild Wings to "show other corporate community participants what it is to stand up to racism."

The group asked the chain of roughly 1,200 sports bars across the country to implement sensitivity training, preemployment screening and a zero-tolerance policy for bigoted conduct.

The families involved said a host at the restaurant asked "what race are you?" while the group's table was being prepared, explaining that it mattered because their table was next to two longtime customers who didn't want to be near black people.

The group took their seats. But then, after two managers had conversations with the group and the white customers, the families decided to take their gathering elsewhere.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Buffalo Wild Wings says the managers -- both women, one black, one white -- were fired after the company's internal investigation. Fuller said the host involved is a black man who quit his job the evening of the confrontation.

Marcus Riley of Bolingbrook, one of the adults in the group, said many employees appeared embarrassed and one was crying as the children and adults left. The group was at the establishment to celebrate a child's birthday.

Buffalo Wild Wings already was in the process of rolling out a diversity and sensitivity campaign and training program called RESPECT, Fuller said. A poster in the back of the restaurant was in place and the company is taking steps to begin enhanced training.

Fuller, along with Buffalo Wild Wings President Lyle Tick and a regional manager, met Tuesday with Naperville Mayor Steve Chirico and city council member Benjamin White.

"They were very forthright. They described their internal investigation and their decision to remove the employees who were removed," Chirico said. "They apologized for the painful experience for the families as well as the image of the city."

White said the community "is taking a hit" from the fact the encounter occurred within its boundaries.

"People are asking me, 'Are we a racist town?'" White said. "I don't want it to give a false perception of our community."

Chirico said Buffalo Wild Wings officials did not dispute the account of the situation given by the families, both in Tuesday's news conference and in earlier social media posts.

He and White both said they think the company is taking responsibility for what happened and aiming to avoid it in the future.

"They want to do everything they can," White said, "to make it right."

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