Bucks player accuses Whitefish Bay jewelry store of racial discrimination

John Henson says Schwanke-Kasten employees locked the doors and would not let him in

John Henson

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:14 pm

Milwaukee Bucks player John Henson on Monday posted a message on social media site Instagram accusing the Schwanke-Kasten jewelry store in Whitefish Bay of racial discrimination against him.

Here is Henson’s account of the incident: “Went to@schwankekasten jewelry today in Whitefish Bay during regular business hours. They locked the door and told me to go away. After I rang the doorbell twice everyone went to the back. No (one) answered the door or told me what was going on. This was followed by two police cars pulling up and parking across the street and watching me for 5 minutes (I assumed they were called by the store). I was then approached by two officers and questioned about the dealer vehicle I was in which is apart of my endorsement deal with Kunes Country Chevrolet and asked me what I wanted amongst other things that were just irrelevant to me being there just trying to shop at the store like a normal paying customer would do. I told them I was just trying to look at a watch. He then had to go in the back and tell them to come out it was safe but this is after they ran my plates and I overheard them talking about doing more of a background check on the car. The employees finally came out of the back and proceeded to conduct business like they previously were as we walked up. This was one of the most degrading and racially prejudice things I’ve ever experienced in life and wouldn’t wish this on anyone  This store needs to be called out and that’s what I’m doing. You have no right to profile someone because of their race and nationality and this incident needs to be brought to light and I urge anyone who ever is thinking of shopping here reads this and doesn’t bring any business to this discriminatory place.”

John Henson
John Henson

Henson’s statement quickly went viral on social media on Monday and became a national news story.

On Monday night, Whitefish Bay Police Chief Michael Young issued a statement explaining his department’s handling of the incident. He said Whitefish Bay police were called by the store on Friday after the store received phone calls on Thursday and Friday asking what the store’s closing time was.

There was a theft at the store two years ago and the Schwanke-Kasten store in Milwaukee has been the victim of robberies during the last two years, according to Young.

On Friday a Whitefish Bay police officer parked in front of the store in an unmarked vehicle. At nearly 5 p.m. a “newer red Chevrolet Tahoe” with a dealer license plate parked in front of the store. Four individuals got out of the vehicle and went to the store. The door to the store was locked. The four individuals spoke to an employee inside the store, then got back in the vehicle and left. The officer checked the plate with the state computer system and it was listed to a Wisconsin dealership, but not a specific vehicle, Young said in his statement.

The officer called that dealership and was told the plate was listed to a partner dealership. Police contacted an employee at that dealership who did not recognize the vehicle or the occupants of the vehicle.

“The officer inquired about ways people could get a hold of these type of plates and the employee informed the officer that they ship many cars to Chicago and it’s possible somebody stole the plates,” Young said in his statement. “My officer called the Schwanke-Kasten Jewelers employee back and informed her that he had spoken to the dealership with whom the plates are listed. He informed the employee that the dealership was running low on plates and that the plates were potentially stolen but that they were not listed as stolen. He advised the employee that if the vehicle came back to call the station.”

On Sunday Tom Dixon, the owner of Schwanke-Kasten Jewelers, told Whitefish Bay police about a burglary at a Green Bay jewelry store that sells Rolex watches. He requested extra police watch for his store on Monday.

On Monday, at 1:20 p.m., Whitefish Bay police officers went to the Schwanke-Kasten store, because they were told that the Red Tahoe with the dealership license plates had returned. The officer ran the plate and it was listed to a Ford dealership with no vehicle attached, and was not listed as stolen.

“The two Whitefish Bay officers approached the two men in front of Schwanke-Kasten Jewelers and asked what was going on,” Young said in his statement. “A man, later identified as John Henson, informed the officer that he was there to buy his first Rolex, but every time he tries the door, it’s locked and they don’t let him in. One of the officers asks him about the dealer plates on the Tahoe. He advises the officer that he plays for the Milwaukee Bucks and that Bucks players get vehicles from this dealership. Neither officer asked Mr. Henson or his companion for driver licenses or any other identification. The officer called dispatch to request that a Schwanke-Kasten employee come to the front door. The employee told the dispatcher to have the officer come to the back door. After my officer informed the Schwanke-Kasten Jewelers employee that it was a Milwaukee Buck, the employee came to the front door and let them in.”

Young said a Schwanke-Kasten employee asked for a police officer to stand by as Henson and the other man looked at Rolex watches, but the officers refused to do so and left the store.

Dixon could not be reached for comment, but released the following statement to the news media: “We all agree that racial profiling is never acceptable and deeply regret how the circumstances unfolded Friday and today. John Henson is a valued member of the Bucks basketball organization and a valued member of the Milwaukee community. We believe that everyone – professional athlete or not – deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. I have reached out to the Bucks organization and hope to sit down directly with John Henson to look one another in the eye, shake hands, and apologize for what he experienced. I have met John Henson in the store before. There is no excuse for what he experienced today and I hope to see him again to personally apologize.”

Henson told reporters today that he met with Dixon, who apologized for Monday’s incident at the Whitefish Bay store.

Schwanke-Kasten Jewelers has been a family-owned and operated jeweler since 1899 and is the exclusive dealer in Milwaukee for several high-end brands, including Rolex. The company has stores in Whitefish Bay and downtown Milwaukee.

Henson recently signed a four-year, $44 million contract extension with the Bucks, and is entering his fourth season with the team.

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Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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