A Pizza Hut franchise in England has been slapped with racism charges after insisting a group of black professional soccer players pay for their meal before being served, the BBC is reporting.
The five AFC Bournemouth players, which included Anton Robinson, Liam Feeney and Martin Bartley, reportedly visited the chain's Castle Lane West restaurant in Bournemouth on Dec. 2 after a training session had been canceled. The men were then asked by the manager to pay before eating, but a group of Caucasian teenagers who later entered the restaurant were not.
As midfielder Robinson told the Bournemouth Echo:
"We ordered our food. The manager came up with the bill and said: 'Would you mind paying first?' We asked if that was the policy and he said, 'No.' When we asked why he had asked us, he said: 'It's the way you look.'
We had a good idea what he was trying to get at. A group of white kids came in straight after us and they weren't asked to pay before they had their food. The only thing that was different was the color of our skins."
Though Robinson says he introduced the neatly-dressed group as professional soccer players and said they were happy to pay at the end of the meal, the employee didn't budge, and even threatened to call the police when the group refused to pay upfront, according to the Guardian. Though no formal complaints were ever made to police, Bournemouth team chairman Eddie Mitchell subsequently denounced the restaurant's actions on club's website, stating, "In this day and age, it is upsetting to hear that people are treated differently because of the color of their skin, and at AFC Bournemouth we will not condone any treatment of people in such a way."
A Pizza Hut spokesman has since issued a statement apologizing for the incident. "We do not tolerate any form of discrimination...while our duty manager's actions were absolutely not racially motivated, we are very sorry for the way this was handled," the statement read, according to the BBC. "Unfortunately, it seems this approach was not enforced as a blanket policy, and we have ensured all staff have been retrained."