HOUSTON – Monica Winn loves boating and joined the Freedom Boat Club as a birthday gift to herself and was really excited about becoming a member. But all of that changed when she said David Hearne, who presented himself as the owner, discriminated against her and her guests, making them feel unwelcome.
“I really tried to resolve this with Mr. Hearne and speak with him. I was informed my worst fears were true and that he basically was a racist. He just didn’t want African Americans using his boat club,” Winn said.
Winn said she contacted Freedom Boat Club and their corporate office, writing a detailed statement explaining what happened. She claimed two weeks later nothing had changed and said she was told not to use her membership in Galveston, which is the location she wanted to use. A membership Winn said she was still paying for.
At a news conference on Thursday, Winn was joined by two former Freedom Boat Club employees as she discussed the federal civil rights lawsuit. They said Hearne is a racist based on the comments they heard him make. They claimed they often heard him use racial slurs while referring to African Americans. Winn and the two former employees said Hearne still works for Freedom Boat Club, despite the complaints that have been made against him.
“This is all just really distressing. I would hope that in this day, it wouldn’t be like this anymore. But, as an African American we are still restricted from enjoying certain liberties,” Winn said.
Lee Gordon of Brunswick Corporation, the parent company of Freedom Boat Club Galveston, released a written statement:
It was recently brought to our attention that an employee of Goin' Coastal LLC, a Freedom Boat Club franchisee located in Galveston, Texas, is accused of making racially insensitive remarks to one of its members. While Goin' Coastal is an independently owned and operated business, the alleged conduct is entirely inconsistent with the values of Freedom Boat Club and we have zero tolerance for any racism or discrimination. The person accused of this misconduct is not the owner of the franchise in Galveston, nor is he an employee of Brunswick Corporation or Freedom Boat Club. While we continue to investigate these very troubling allegations, we are transitioning management of this location away from Goin' Coastal. The alleged behavior does not in any way reflect the commitment of Freedom Boat Club to creating an open and inclusive environment.