He was normally the one defending the lane. Etan Thomas, a 6’10 former professional basketball player created a social media firestorm when he posted a picture to his Facebook page claiming that a white woman on an Amtrak train refused to share her seat with the black, 38-year-old, New York native.
The problem wasn’t that she said no, claiming that the seat was already taken. It’s what happened next:
“So I go to the next seat. Now, less than 2 mins later a man (who happens to be white) asks if he can sit there and she says why sure let me move my stuff. So I have to say something so I ask ummmmm did you just not want ME to sit next to you ? Were you scared ? Not comfortable with a Black Man sitting next to you?”
The women in the seat reportedly rebuffed Thomas’ accusation, saying he was playing the “race card” and saying she had dated a black man in college.
Also for the record, Thomas says the incredibly uncomfortable, but “nice guy” in the picture says he politely offered to move so Thomas could have the seat, which the ex-athlete declined. Instead, Thomas wanted to make a teaching moment out the situation and told the woman he was going to take a photo and share it with his social media following. Angry, the woman called over the conductor. Only problem is the conductor happened to be a fan of Thomas, even thanking him for his work in the community.
The post has now been shared nearly 40,000 times on Facebook alone and become the subject of articles in major news sites like ESPN, where Thomas is probably more accosted to seeing his name pop up in box scores. Still, it’s not a totally new situation for Thomas to be in.
As The Root notes, Thomas is a “universally accepted all-around great guy,” who helps out student athletes and is even a published poet. He’s also a human being. Someone, like all people, who deserves a seat at the table, or on the train, without being subjected to drama.
Still, he’s found a way to bring attention to an uncomfortable situation, one that can hopefully remind people to be more respectful of their fellow commuters. Besides, you never know when that person might just happen to be famous.