Exclusive: NBA star says Amtrak rider denied him a seat because he’s black

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NEW YORK — For the first time, former NBA player Etan Thomas is speaking out on the racial confrontation he had with a white female on Amtrak on May 21.

The woman, he said, denied an open seat next to her. But two minutes later she offered it to a white male.

He then confronted her and asked why. She said it was not racial. He begs to differ.

"Most people were shocked when I posted the story on my Facebook page," Thomas said. "I believe it was racism. Most people think we live in a post racial utopia. We do not."

Thomas also posted a picture of the woman and the man.

The story has gone viral. Thomas’ Facebook page has more than 29,000 shares, 4,000 comments, and 116,000 likes.

“I was shocked at the attention and that the video went viral," Thomas said.

Thomas believes the reason his story has gotten so much attention is that many minorities can relate to his story.

“The feedback I received deals with people who have gone through similar circumstances," he said. "But they are surprised when they hear stories about pro athletes. I wonder if the woman was scared about my dreadlocks or my size. The man who sat next to her was also big."

The father of three is a Syracuse University graduate and an accomplished writer and poet. On Thursday, he spoke to kids and parents at the Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem on the subject of fatherhood.

Thomas brought his son Malcolm along for the panel discussion. Thomas said he told his children about this Amtrak incident and said he lets his kids read his posts on Facebook.

He said his daughter was upset over the racial discrimination suffered by her father. But Thomas said he explains to his kids about the injustices in life. As of this date, Thomas said, he has not heard from the woman on Amtrak nor has he tried to contact her.

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