Sports Merchandise Retailer Fanatics Sued for Racial Discrimination

Fanatics, the world’s largest retailer of licensed sports merchandise, is being sued by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for racial discrimination, harassment, and retaliation against a black employee.

The employee who brought the complaint to the EEOC alleged that on his first day working at the Jacksonville, Florida-based company in 2012, he was called the “n word” by a team leader, and during the ensuing years in the screen department, he heard white supervisors and employees make comments like, “I mean can you read? I’m not racist but a lot of you [black] guys can’t read” and “Why does he have those big Aunt Jemima lips?”

Other employees backed up his claims that the work environment was racially segregated, with white employees and black employees receiving different treatment from managers.

“There is a lot of separation of the races,” one coworker told the commission. “The white employees can sit around and not do anything but if the black employees sit around they get yelled at.”

Additionally, the employee who brought the complaint claims he was told he would be promoted to a supervisory role, but after complaining to a human resources manager about the racist comments, his supervisor told him he would never be promoted, and a less-qualified applicant, who was Hispanic, got the position.

Fanatics is owned by billionaire e-commerce entrepreneur Michael Rubin, whose company, Kynetic, also operates the flash sales site Rue La La and the membership benefit company ShopRunner.

“Fanatics is committed to treating all employees fairly and takes complaints like this very seriously,” the company said in a statement. “We deny any wrongdoing and look forward to vigorously defending these claims in court.”

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