Happy's Pizza denies claim of racial discrimination by Lions great Lem Barney

Barney, wife denied service

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COMMERCE TOWNSHIP, Mich. – A Detroit Lions legend is taking a popular restaurant chain to court and claiming racial discrimination.

In a federal lawsuit, NFL Hall of Famer Lem Barney said he and his wife were denied service at a Happy's Pizza in predominantly white Commerce Township and told they could go eat at another Happy's Pizza location.

The pizza chain is denying the allegations and claiming it wasn't open for business at that time. On the day of the incident, the company said, about 30 people were told to go to other locations, including Farmington Hills and Pontiac.

"He told me to go to Southfield. I said, 'Southfield? I don't live in Southfield.' I guess because a lot of blacks live in Southfield," said Jacqueline Barney.

The Commerce Township couple left, but later called police, alleging racial discrimination.

"Why can't we be here? Why can't we buy things and do things like we want to do? Like everybody else? What else could it be? We had the money. So, why throw us out," asked Lem Barney.

Happy's Pizza denied the allegations in the following statement:

"We are deeply saddened by Mr. and Mrs. Barney's accusations of racial discrimination. The Happy's Pizza location Mr. Barney and his wife visited was not yet open to the public for business on Nov. 2, but the doors were. As employees and contractors were in and out of the building, doing food and equipment testing and preparing the store for opening the following week."

The Detroit Lions legend and his wife said they will not be going back to Happy's Pizza.

About the Authors:

Priya joined WDIV-Local 4 in 2013 as a reporter and fill-in anchor. Education: B.A. in Communications/Post Grad in Advanced Journalism

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.