A white Minneapolis venture capitalist's office lease was terminated after a viral video showed him questioning black entrepreneurs using the gym in a building of which they were all tenants, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Wednesday.
Tom Austin, the managing partner of F2 Group, threatened to call the police on the group of black men on Tuesday. The men are the owners of Top Figure, a Minneapolis-based social media and branding agency. They work out of a WeWork coworking space in the building and are allowed to use the amenities.
Austin ultimately called the building manager, who confirmed the men have a lease in the building. He told the Tribune that his actions led to his company losing its lease in the building.
“Should have handled it differently,” he said in an email to the Tribune. “Not my job to have done anything.”
Top Figure posted the video of the exchange to its Instagram page. As of Wednesday evening, it has 33,000 likes.
“I’m Tom Austin,” the man says in the video. “I’m a tenant in the building. Are you?”
In the Instagram caption, the men accused Austin of “racial profiling and age discrimination” and tagged the building’s Instagram page.
“As you guys can see, we’re dealing with racism here,” one man said in the video.
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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.ADVERTISEMENT
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Austin insisted to the Tribune he was not being racist and was upholding a building policy that allows only tenants to use amenities. He said he saw one of them open the door to the gym with a key fob and let the rest in before the group got “aggressive.”
He told the Tribune that by the end of the exchange, he was on "talking terms" with the men.
"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,'" Austin told the Tribune.
The incident comes just days after a video of a white Minneapolis police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd until he died of asphyxiation went viral. The death of Floyd, an African American man, led to massive protests in the city and calls for an investigation into the officers behavior.
Stuart Ackerberg, CEO of Ackerberg Group, which owns the MoZaic East building, said he was still heartbroken from seeing the video of Floyd when he decide to terminate the lease.
“My heart hurts,” he told the Tribune. “This is not how we do business. ... I’m alarmed by what I saw.”