Cal’s women’s basketball coach was about to board a plane from Denver to Oakland when a Southwest Airlines employee asked her to prove that she was the mother of her biracial son.
Coach Lindsey Gottlieb took to twitter to tell her story through a series of tweets. According to Gottlieb, the employee at the ticket counter asked her to produce the birth certificate of Jordan Gottlieb Martin to prove that she was the boy’s mother. She stated that the employee cited “federal law,” then went on to ask her to "prove I’m (his) mother with (a) Facebook post."
In one tweet, Gottlieb wrote, "She said because we have (a) different last name. My guess is (it's) because he has a different skin color."
Gottlieb, in a statement given to USA TODAY Sports through a spokesperson of the athletic department, stated that the incident was "uncomfortable and hurtful."
She stated; "I felt that in this situation it was my responsibility to say, 'Hey, this isn’t OK.' We had a passport that verified our son’s age and identity, and both parents were present. But still being pushed further to 'prove' that he was my son felt disrespectful and motivated by more than just concern for his well-being."
Gottlieb stated that she had initiated communication with Southwest Airlines about the interaction, and that they had promptly apologized. They told her that they would use her experience as a “coaching” moment for their employees.
The company also issued a statement to USA TODAY Sports, stating that they had communicated with Gottlieb about the incident, and that they had talked to the employee responsible.
The statement read; "We apologize if our interaction made this family uncomfortable — that is never our intention. Our employees are well-regarded for their hospitality, and we always strive for the best experience for anyone who entrusts us with their family’s travel.”
"Southwest Airlines’ policy is to verify lap children are younger than the age of two by reviewing a birth certificate or government issued identification. Certain international locations require us to verify additional paperwork for those travelling with a minor. Domestic travel does not require carriers to match last names of a child and guardian," the statement continued.
"While it was upsetting and emotional, I realize that this was just one day of my life where I was uncomfortable and our family was made to feel 'less than' whereas others face similar situations on a daily basis,” Gottlieb said in a statement.
She added, "I hope the coverage this has received can serve as a learning opportunity and that all families — regardless of how 'traditional' they may or may not look — are treated with dignity and respect."