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American Airlines apologizes to pro basketball players

CHICAGO: American Airlines has apologized to two professional basketball players who were kicked off a flight originating from Dallas, Texas, after being falsely accused of theft.

The airline said it apologized to Marquis Teague and Trahson Burrell, both members of the National Basketball Association’s minor league team Memphis Hustle, for the Christmas Eve incident, which came to light Tuesday.

The two men, who are African-American, had boarded a flight operated by American’s regional subsidiary Envoy Air. They were headed to a scheduled game in the state of South Dakota.

An African-American flight attendant accused the athletes, who were flying in coach, of taking blankets from first class and they were kicked off the plane. The two were in fact given the blankets by first-class passengers.

The incident comes at a time when American is trying to address accusations of bias in the way it has treated some customers. The airline apologized to the players and booked them first-class seats on a later flight.

“We apologize for what occurred on this flight. We take pride in bringing people together, and we know that on this flight we let some of our customers down,” airline spokesman Joshua Freed said in a statement.

Freed added that the airline was reviewing the incident and “will be reaching out” to the players, who had not addressed the incident as of Wednesday morning.

The civil rights group NAACP issued a travel advisory in October, warning African-Americans about “a pattern of disturbing incidents reported by African-American passengers, specific to American Airlines.”

After a meeting with the group, the airline said it would require its 120,000 employees to undergo new training, among other changes.

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