ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46)-- A former Atlanta Hawks player and NBA legend said he believes an upscale Buckhead restaurant denied seating him because of his race Saturday afternoon.
CBS46’S Melissa Stern spoke with Wilkins in an exclusive interview about the incident.
Wilkins believes he was turned away from Le Bilboquet Atlanta because he is black.
General Manager Mark Hoefer, said that’s not the case but wants to make things right.
"We went there to have lunch, and I was dressed very sporty, casual, I had a nice pair of casual pants on with a stripe, nice red shirts, and sneakers on" said Wilkins.
Wilkins visited the restaurant around 1 p.m.
"As I’m walking in, I notice right away, that they’re sizing me up, they’re looking me up before I even said a word." he said.
He said he then asked for a table outside and was told they did not have any reservations available for lunch, despite many empty tables outside.
Wilkins claims a woman working at the restaurant said "..and plus, you have sweatpants on, and we’re trying to keep a level of elegance…"
"During this time, I’m seeing people walk up in shorts, sneakers, and shirts on…" he claimed.
Three days prior to Wilkins claim, another black woman told CBS46 she had a similar experience.
Wilkins said, "I know racism, I grew up with it, I’ve had a cross burning in my yard when I was in high school."
Manager, Hoefer, said racism was not a factor.
"He was turned away because he was not in compliance with our dress code, it has nothing to do with the color of his skin." he said.
Hoefer said they do not have an issue with shorts or jeans, but they do not allow sweatpants or athleticwear.
He added that he thinks it is unfortunate Wilkins feels he is being singled out.
"He was in track pants, and we were being consistent with our policy, if we would have let him because of his celebrity status, we would have been discriminatory toward everyone we’ve turned away, based on that same policy."
"People try to flip this, twist it, and turn it, and make it something that it’s not, instead of what it is." said Wilkins.
He added that he believes more education and better training would help avoid this, and wants the restaurant to be held accountable.
"I was embarrassed at how we were both treated." He added.
Hoefer said, "I’ve cheered for him for many years when I was growing up, and he’s done nothing but good for this community, and I would love to have the opportunity to personally apologize."
Wilkins told Stern he has no plans on returning and is still waiting on a public apology.
The manager said since the incident, they’ve been receiving threats and fake reservations under Wilkins name.
The restaurant released the following statement: