Watch white venture capitalist play security when Black entrepreneurs have audacity to use same gym

Watch white venture capitalist play security when Black entrepreneurs have audacity to use same gym

An entitled white venture capitalist is now out of a space to lease for his business after viral video shows him practically accusing a group of Black entrepreneurs Tuesday in Minneapolis of trespassing for attempting to work out in a gym their office rental granted them use of. Tom Austin owns the company F2 Group and rents office space in the Mozaic East building in question, Business Insider reported. But he was no more entitled to the building’s shared gym space than other renters in the building.

Still, he felt the need to approach a group of Black men linked to the social media and marketing company Top Figure. “I’m Tom Austin. I’m a tenant in the building. Are you,” he can be seen on video asking the men. “We’re all tenants of this building,” one of the men answered. But that apparently didn’t satisfy Austin’s propensity to imitate building security, so he asked the men: “What office?”

At that point, one of the renters told Austin they didn’t have to answer his questions. A person narrating the recording described the situation as “racism.” Austin, who had earlier taken photos of the men using his cell phone, started calling a woman he referred to as Nicole—presumably Nicole Lavere, assistant property manager with the Ackerberg Group.

“I don’t know what you can do here, but there’s a whole bunch of people who don’t appear to be part of the [building],” Austin told her. He insisted Wednesday in an interview with the Star Tribune that he is not racist. He told the newspaper that the building recently sent an email to tenants that only leasers could use the gym and other building amenities. He said he thought the men may not all be tenants because he saw one of them using his key fob to let the others in and they became “aggressive” when he talked to them.

Austin told the Star Tribune he and the men continued to work out in the gym after their encounter. “By the end of the night, we were on talking terms,” he told the newspaper. “I said, ‘I’m sorry you thought I was being racist, but I was not. If you were a bunch of women, I would have done the same thing.’” That example is more applicable to an allegation of sexism than racism, but apparently Austin couldn’t be bothered to keep his “isms” straight in his non-apology.

The business owners posted their synopsis of what happened on the Top Figure Instagram page:

Normally we don’t speak out about encounters of racial profiling and age discrimination that we face day to day in our lives as young black entrepreneurs. Although today May 26th 2020 7:51pm we encountered a situation where a man entered the facility, a shared private gym that we utilize in our @wework @mozaic_east office located in uptown Minnesota. Granted we’ve been in this office space and have rented and grown our business for the past 1 year and half here. As we were working out this man approached and immediately asked us who we were and if “WE BELONG” in this building. Granted in order to enter the building you NEED a key card to enter EVERY part of the building which EACH of our team members individually have. We all pay rent here and this man demanded that we show him our key cards or he will call the cops on us. We are sick and tired of tolerating this type of behavior on a day to day basis and we feel that we had to bring light onto this situation.

The WeWork facility was quick to respond with a statement Wednesday, noting that Austin is not a “WeWork member” and that the encounter didn’t happen in one of the business’ spaces. The gym is shared between WeWork and another business. “We do not tolerate discrimination in any form,” the WeWork company said in its statement. “We have asked the building owner, and operator of the gym, where the recorded incident took place, to take immediate steps to investigate and address the conduct in the video.”

Ackerberg CEO Stuart Ackerberg told the Star Tribune he was already heartbroken about another racial incident in the city when he heard about the encounter at the Mozaic East building he owns. George Floyd, a Black man, was shown in a viral video pleading with Minnesota police that he couldn’t breathe as an officer knelt on his neck. He later died, according to his family’s attorney, Ben Crump. Floyd was suspected of forgery by the police involved in the incident, Crump said in a news release.

“My heart hurts,” Ackerberg told the Star Tribune. “This is not how we do business. […] I’m alarmed by what I saw.” He spoke to Austin Wednesday. “I shared with him that I did not think it was handled well and there are other ways to go about this,” Ackerberg said. “It’s unfortunate. Our goal is to create a safe and inviting experience for everybody.”

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