Ethnic exclusion? Hip-hop fans purchase sky suite, refused access to Cowboys tent
Published Wednesday, July 19, 2017 4:39PM MDT
Last Updated Wednesday, July 19, 2017 7:09PM MDT
**Correction: The original version of this story indicated the group paid $6,000 to rent a 20-person sky suite for the concert. The actual cost was $5,657.40**
A group of twenty people organized a night in a sky suite at the Cowboys tent for the Fetty Wap and Big Sean concert on the final night of the Calgary Stampede but they allege racial profiling prevented them from setting foot inside the door.
On Sunday night, the group arrived at the VIP entrance after pre-purchasing a ‘birds eve view sky suite’ for $5,657.40.
“We went through all the trouble of the planning beforehand to make sure we all head down there together," said Greg Yee. "All proceed to take cabs down there, go to the VIP area to get our wristbands to get granted access. Then we find out, before even getting to the line, approaching the line that we’re told that we’re not allowed in.”
“Their first response was basically just management has the right to refuse access.”
Yee says his party consisted of 14 men and six women, and the majority of the group was ethnic and in their mid-to-late 30s.
Brad Leng, who owns a local night club and says he worked for Cowboys for more than a decade, was part of the group.
“We were confused,” said Leng. “For me, the thing that doesn’t make any sense at all is we were stopped before we even had a chance to show our IDs to get scanned. So, in my eyes, right away it was profiling that they were doing to not let us in the bar.”
Leng says the Cowboys staff, including bouncers and management, was polite but unable to provide an explanation for the refusal. He called the situation confusing, humiliating and embarrassing.
“We proceeded to stay there for literally an hour,” said Leng. “Different managers were coming up, some who I know personally because I’ve worked with them before. When I confronted them they didn’t have answers for me. They said it wasn’t their call. They didn’t have a reason why we couldn’t get in.”
“It’s not like we were underage,” added Yee. “We weren’t intoxicated at all. We were just there to have a good time. We just couldn’t get access.”
According to Yee, a Cowboys’ VIP host, the employee had booked the group’s sky suite and accepted the deposit, arrived at the VIP door and attempted to assist.
“She proceeded to come to the front, to the access door, and tell the bouncers ‘Let these guys in, they have a suite’ and they rejected her also and said ‘No, definitely not. They can’t come in.’.”
The group was informed they would receive a refund for the purchase of the sky suite but they would not be allowed inside. Leng and Yee confirm the refund has been processed.
On Wednesday afternoon, Cowboys issued the following statement to CTV Calgary regarding the racial profiling allegations:
We have been made aware of the allegations made against Team Cowboys for an incident claiming racial discrimination. While any private business does reserve the right to refuse service/entry; we want to remind and bring into this conversation several facts about Cowboys Calgary.
For over 21 years, and including this past 11 days; we have welcomed customers of all racial backgrounds and ethnicities (as can clearly be seen via our social media channels - by the demographics of our fans and followers and by photos of our customers inside the venue; including the evening in question).
Some of our longest and most loyal customers reflect our inclusiveness of all racial backgrounds. Our staff / Team Cowboys is also a very clear representation of the inclusive culture that we hold in high regard. Team Cowboys is comprised of hundreds of incredibly dedicated and hard-working people from all ethnicities and racial backgrounds. From all levels of the team - support staff to management and ownership -there is a diverse representation of all ethnicities and racial backgrounds. This is not intentional, this is who Team Cowboys is. An all-inclusive team that welcomes all people who want to create legendary memories and have fun in a safe environment.
One or more of the individuals affiliated with this incident were identified as potential problematic customers known in the nightclub/hospitality industry. We have reached out to the necessary parties, regarding this matter.
“I think we deserve an apology for everything that we went through,” said Yee. “It went as far as half of us taking the day off work on Monday, losing wages so that we could have a good time and stay the whole evening.”
Yee adds the incident does little to help Cowboys’ reputation amongst minorities.
“I don’t go out too much anymore now because I’m getting a little bit older but previously Cowboys was kind of known as the place that if you roll up with maybe five or even four ethnic people, you’re not getting in.”
“We know that we have a better chance if we go one at a time or not as many ethnic people.”
With files from CTV's Alesia Fieldberg