Tom Austin, the managing partner of F2 Group, faces allegations of racial profiling after he was videoed threatening to call 911 on a group of black entrepreneurs for rightfully using a gym in a Minneapolis building where they are all tenants.
On Tuesday night, the Instagram account of Top Figure — a social media and branding agency owned by the group of black business owners — posted a shocking clip that appears to begin after Austin gets into a confrontation with the men.
“What did you say we can’t do?” the man who filmed the clip says.
Austin then replies, “I’m Tom Austin. I’m a tenant in the building. Are you?”
“We’re all tenants in this building,” the man who filmed the clip answers.
“So we have an office here, and this guy came accusing us we can’t be here,” one of the entrepreneurs adds.
Austin then presses the men for their floor and office number. When the men refuse to disclose that information, Austin threatens to call 911 but ultimately calls the building’s property manager instead.
“As you guys can see, we’re dealing with racism here,” one of the men says in the clip as Austin talks to the property manager.
“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,” Top Figure explained in the caption.
“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,” they continued. “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,” they concluded.
After seeing the video, Stuart Ackerberg — the CEO of Ackerberg Group, which owns the building — decided to terminate Austin’s office lease.
“My heart hurts,” Ackerberg told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “This is not how we do business… I’m alarmed by what I saw.”
Ackerberg added, “It appears [the men] had every right to be there and to use that amenity.”
Ackerberg told the Tribune that he spoke to Austin on Wednesday and vocalized his dismay.
“I shared with him that I did not think it was handled well and there are other ways to go about this,” he said to the outlet. “It’s unfortunate. Our goal is to create a safe and inviting experience for everybody.”
Austin also spoke to the Tribune and expressed regret for his actions.
“Should have handled it differently,” Austin said in an e-mail. “Not my job to have done anything.”
However, Austin — who insists he was not being racist in the incident — references a reported e-mail that the building sent reinforcing the rule that only tenants can use the gym and other amenities.
Austin became suspicious after he says he saw one of the five men use a key fob to let others into the bathroom and other doors. Austin also claims the men became “aggressive” when confronted.
Ultimately, Austin says a maintenance person ended up talking to the group of men, and that all parties continued their workout following the incident.
“By the end of the night, we were on talking terms,” Austin claimed. “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.’”