by Mitch Lehman
A season-ending sports celebration will provide memories to last a lifetime for one San Marino family, but it’s doubtful they will look back with fond remembrances upon last Wednesday’s Lady Titan basketball banquet, which was held at San Gabriel Country Club. For it was there, parent Kristine Manley-Hunt says, that her ex-husband was asked to leave the premises because he was in violation of the club’s dress code.
Manley-Hunt’s ex-husband, Paul Hunt, had driven from the west side of Los Angeles where he had attended another function. Both are African American.
“He didn’t want to be late for his daughter’s banquet, so he went straight to the country club,” said Manley-Hunt. “As we were walking in, we joked that he looked like he had just played golf right there [at San Gabriel Country Club] before the banquet.”
Hunt was wearing light green Bermuda shorts and a long-sleeved plaid shirt. Not long after entering the club, Hunt was approached by a banquet manager who informed him that shorts were not allowed in the dining room.
Hunt reportedly told the banquet manager that he had just driven for three hours and didn’t have time to change. Hunt then told the employee “he would just keep his legs under the table all night and I would go through the buffet line for him,” Manley-Hunt quipped. Apparently, nobody else was laughing.
“Coach [Kenny] Fisher told us that they were threatening to not start the banquet until my ex-husband left,” Manley-Hunt said on Tuesday evening. “He went out to try and buy some pants, but at 6’5” and 280 lbs., they are hard to find.” Hunt never returned to the banquet.
Another parent, who is also African American – showed up in denim and was asked to leave. That parent went home, changed, and returned to the banquet.
An Evite that was used by event organizers states “Attire: SGCC is a country club, no denim allowed.” It does not mention shorts. The San Gabriel Country Club non-member website does not provide information on a dress code.
“We were told it was a strict regulation,” said Manley-Hunt. “It did not appear on the invitation. It doesn’t appear on the club’s website.”
When asked if she felt her ex-husband’s dismissal was racially motivated, Manley-Hunt said “I believe it’s a possibility. Here is this big black dude and they are making up fictitious rules. How can you make up a dress code on the spot and enforce it on whomever you want? Your mind has to go there. And another black family was also asked to leave? What are we supposed to think?”
John Semcken, a former San Marino resident and current president of San Gabriel Country Club’s board of directors, said he is waiting on “a complete report” from the general manager, and said the club “was at fault, initially.”
“We did not get them all the information before the banquet that we should have,” said Semcken. “But we have a dress code and we have to stick to it. Our members are not allowed in the dining room in shorts, or in jeans, or in t-shirts, or in flip-flops. We made a mistake by sending out an incomplete dress code.”
Semcken disputed the claim that the banquet manager told Hunt the event would not begin until Hunt left the premises. Semcken also claimed that the banquet manager offered to open the pro shop in order to allow Hunt to purchase pants but that Hunt refused.
“San Gabriel is the most diverse in the area as far as different ethnicities are concerned,” Semcken said. “We are proud of that diversity and we are sorry for the misunderstanding. We are taking all necessary actions to assure this doesn’t happen in the future.”
“We don’t like to play the race card, but when it is up here in our face it does no good to deny it,” said Manley-Hunt. “We have to call it what it is even if it makes people uncomfortable. I would be the first one to tell [my ex-husband] if he didn’t meet the dress code and he needed to put on something else. This was supposed to be a family event. This wasn’t some type of royal, black-tie function. But this is above and beyond that.”
Manley-Hunt, who has worked in education for the past eighteen years, was also critical of school employees in attendance who did not come to the family’s defense.
“The school didn’t come and support a father who was there to support his child,” she said. It’s unforgivable.”
Superintendent Loren Kleinrock said “I would like to think that if one of our school officials were aware that there was a problem, she or he would have tried to resolve that problem.” Kleinrock also said “I will also continue to verify which school officials were in attendance in order to determine if the opportunity for intervention existed, adding that “even if a school official had tried to intervene, the school could not force the Club to change its policies.”
Manley-Hunt alleged other acts of racism that she said occurred during her children’s time in the San Marino Unified School District.
“I’m just done,” she said. “It’s time for people to stop running away from this issue and start doing something proactive.”
Manley-Hunt is also disappointed that she has yet to receive an apology – “not even a response” – from the district and school board almost six days after the incident.
“Nothing. Crickets, crickets, crickets,” she said.
Editor’s note: Since I serve as the public address announcer for the Lady Titan basketball team, I was a guest at the banquet that is described herein. I arrived at San Gabriel Country Club at approximately 6:30 p.m. and was not in attendance when the incident took place. During the more than two-hour duration of the banquet, I heard no discussion of any incident, in any form. On Monday, March 24 at approximately 3:00 p.m., I was contacted by Superintendent Loren Kleinrock and asked to provide information to Mr. Kleinrock regarding the events of March 19.
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