This Black NFL Player Was Shut Out of a Club For Being too 'Urban'

March 1st 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

An NFL player started a conversation about racial discrimination after claiming he was barred from entering a London area nightclub for looking "too urban." 

NFL running back Mark Ingram tweeted a play-by-play of the story to his followers.

His group, which included New Orleans Saints players Sterling Moore, Vonn Bell, B.W. Webb, and other black friends, had dinner together and then headed to the circus-themed night club Cirque Le Soir. 

One tweet shows a screenshot of a conversation between two members of the group. It apparently outlines a conversation with club management, where members of the group were allegedly told they were too "urban" and too "big" to get into the club, despite having reservations. 

Cirque Le Soir tweeted a response to Ingram's accusations denying that Ingram's group was dismissed as "too urban," but was instead denied entry because they were an "all-male entourage," which is against the club's door policy. 

The phrase "no urban wear" is often incorporated into the dress codes and door policies at clubs in English-speaking countries around the world, and it's usually supposed to imply that the dress code is more upscale, which some Twitter users pointed out. 

The term "urban" is often used to describe minorities or minority communities without specifically addressing race or ethnicity. Essence Magazine's Jolie A. Doggett wrote about "urban" in a 2015 article called "Five Code Words the Media Needs to Stop Using to Describe Black People." 

"In the wake of Freddie Gray's death, the media's been referencing Baltimore as the example of 'urban' unrest. Where is 'Urban America' and how do we get there? Is it not part of the rest of America? 'Urban' is basically a code word to describe any city that's filled with people of color."

Despite the club's denial, Ingram thanked his supporters and tweeted that "stereotyping and discrimination are real in our world" with the hashtag #TooUrban.

Some defended Cirque Le Soir against the charges of racism by noting that the club is hosting an appearance by rapper Young Thug on March 2. 

But others noted that enjoying black art does not necessarily translate to respecting black people. 

There is a long history of clubs hosting black artists, but denying entry to black people. 

The famous whites-only Cotton Club in New York City's Harlem routinely hosted jazz by black performers in the 1920s and '30s, while applying a plantation theme to the decorations and wait staff uniforms.

Famous black musicians Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway led regular house bands at the club, and Louis Armstrong, Ethel, Waters, and Lena Horne and many other other black artists performed throughout the clubs segregated history. 

"The oppressive segregation of the Cotton Club was reinforced by its depiction of the African American employees as exotic savages or plantation residents. The music was often orchestrated to bring to mind a jungle atmosphere," BlackPast.org's Elizabeth Winter writes. "By transforming the club into this plantation atmosphere and bringing in celebrities, [club operator] Owney Madden created a demand for the Cotton Club and its exclusionary policies and also helped perpetuate widely held stereotypes about African Americans."

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