Was family ejected from field because of race?

Posted at 10:22 PM, Jun 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-24 23:23:52-04

An Omaha father and his children may have been asked to leave their baseball field because of their race.

Johnson Lawson was practicing with two of his children Wednesday on an empty field at the Westgate baseball fields when a man others later identified as a caretaker asked them to leave.

“He said I didn't look like I'm the type of person that would be down there and be part of that league,” Lawson said.

Westgate is a private field. Lawson’s family has paid for a summer membership in the organization for four years. He said coaches encourage practice time when the fields are not busy. The family has used the fields several other times without incident. He explained that to the man, who continued asking him to leave.

“He, at that point, said while I was sitting on my bucket, that I was making him feel uncomfortable, and that's when he asked us to leave the field,” said Lawson.

Lawson contacted the league and took his concerns to facebook. Dozens quickly responded, collectively agreeing that the ejection was not because of policy, but because the family is African American.

“I can't say that for sure. He didn't mention that to me, but he definitely made me feel uncomfortable with the phrase, ‘You don't belong down here.’” Lawson said.

Westgate/Westside Athletic Association (WWAA) has fielded complaint calls. They have not denied the incident, but said the caretaker is an employee of the foundation which owns the fields.

“We are sorry to hear of this recent incident that occurred at the fields.  Westgate is a renter of the fields. Our organization is run by great volunteers both on the board and with all of our coaches. We do not employ the grounds keeper… I was not there, I have no further info and I cannot comment on an employee who is NOT employed by Westgate,” WWAA Chairman Steve Peterson said in an email to Action 3 News.

Lawson said he has been back to the field since the incident for baseball games. He acknowledged a similar statement from WWAA, but said he received no apology.

“What he sent me back was, to help people identify that we play at Westgate, that I should maybe have my children in their uniforms when we're down having practice time swinging the bat. And he said maybe the individual was having a bad day, and that's why he kicked us off the field,” Lawson said.