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Golf club feels backlash, loss of business after calling police on black members

"I felt we were discriminated against. It was a horrific experience."

CREDIT: Getty
CREDIT: Getty

One week after five African-American women say they were discriminated against at the Grandview Golf Club, the white golf club owners are facing a dip in business — and a potential investigation.

On April 21, the women — Sandra Thompson, 50; Myneca Ojo, 56; Karen Crosby, 58; and sisters Sandra Harrison, 59, and Carolyn Dow, 56 — were told were told by former York County Commissioner Steve Chronister that they were taking too long. They say he introduced himself as the owner of the Grandview Golf Course in York County, Pa. After offering to refund their memberships, the club called the police.

The club’s actual owner, Jordan Chronister, can be seen in video footage taken by one of the women “saying he had been timing the women,” as the Washington Post reports. “He interrupts them in a mocking tone and tells the women to leave before the police arrived. The police have said that once officers arrived at the course, it was clear that law enforcement did not need to be involved.”

In an interview with the York Daily Record, Ojo said, “I felt we were discriminated against. It was a horrific experience.”

From the Post:

“When you see these African American women dealing with this issue, for many people it brings back this very long, very troubled history of racism and sexism, and just the denial of people’s humanity,” said state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia-Montgomery County). “It’s 2018.”

The club’s co-owner, JJ Chronister, wrote in a news release on Sunday that the incident “does not reflect our organization’s values or our commitment to delivering a welcoming environment for everyone. We are disappointed that this situation occurred and regret that our members were made to feel uncomfortable in any way.”

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The following day, Chronister issued another statement: “In the past players who have not followed the rules, specifically pace of play, have voluntarily left at our request as our scorecard states. In this instance, the members refused to leave so we called police to ensure an amicable result… During the second conversation we asked members to leave as per our policy noted on the scorecard, voices escalated, and police were called to ensure an amicable resolution.”

But Chronister’s comments do not appear to have cooled the backlash. Pittsburgh TV station KDKA reports that a Pittsburgh course with the same name has been “bombarded with threatening phone calls” and social media messages from people confusing it with the York County course. And Casta Cigars, which previously sold 40 cigars to Grandview, announced it would “prohibit any future sales” to the club — even though Grandview is located just five miles from the Casta shop.

On Wednesday, Hughes sent a letter to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, calling for an investigation into racial and gender discrimination at the club and expressing his support for the women. “It is appalling that someone would call the police for a non-violent incident where the only crime was being black on a public golf course,” he said.

The next day, Gov. Tom Wolf, the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African-American Affairs, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission responded with a statement addressing not just the reported discrimination at the golf club but also the racial slurs shouted by a Penn State student at a black student that same week and the recent arrest of two black men at a Philadelphia Starbucks. 

The Philadelphia arrests became a massive news story, prompting Starbucks to announce it would be closing all its stores in the United States for a day in May to conduct racial bias training.

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“These types of incidents have no place in Pennsylvania,” the statement reads. “We must continue to work to combat discrimination, reject both avert and systemic racism, and bring fairness to our institutions at all levels.” It also reminds business owners that they are required to abide by anti-discrimination laws:

“We urge business managers and owners to reflect upon the treatment of individuals who seek to patronize your businesses. Businesses are considered places of public accommodations and are subject to the anti-discrimination provisions of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA).”