Cal women’s basketball coach Lindsay Gottlieb was about to board a plane in Denver with her year-old son Jordan on Monday when she was stopped by a Southwest Airlines employee, who demanded to see proof that she was Jordan’s mother. Even after Gottlieb showed Jordan’s passport, the employee was not satisfied, which Gottlieb suspects is because her son is mixed-race and she is white.
It’s reasonable for an airline employee to verify the identity of a young child during the boarding process, but Gottlieb says they nearly missed their flight because the employee was unconvinced when she offered his passport, the standard verification method. The employee claimed it was because Gottlieb and her son have different last names. However, Gottlieb’s fiancé Patrick Martin was present. The employee apparently asked for Jordan’s birth certificate and claimed they were required to do so by federal law, which they were not. When Gottlieb said she didn’t have Jordan’s birth certificate on her (why would she?), the employee said they would be satisfied if Gottlieb showed a Facebook post that proved she was her son’s mother.
Jordan, who was born last May, is a regular flier, and Gottlieb says she had never been stopped and asked to prove his identity before. She told the Washington Post yesterday, “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.”
Southwest released a statement and said they were sorry “if our interaction made this family uncomfortable.” Gottlieb also told the Post, “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. 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.”