UPDATE: Statement from Harley cutting ties:
“Racism, hate or intolerance have no place in our world including within the Harley-Davidson community, employees, dealers or riders. We recently became aware of racist comments posted on one of our dealer owner’s Facebook page and immediately started a review process. We will not tolerate this type of behavior in our network, and today we are announcing that the dealer owner in question will no longer be part of our dealer network. Harley-Davidson is committed to diversity and inclusion. We strive to create a welcoming environment for everyone.”
UPDATE: Another manufacturer is cutting ties with Abernathy’s. I just got this statement from Lee Gordon from Brunswick Corporation, “we terminated our contract with them last week as well. They sold two of our boat brands Lowe and Lund as well as our engine brand Mercury Marine. We are in the process of pulling product out of the dealership now.”
Lee Gordon, Director – Brunswick Global Communications & Public Relations
UNION CITY, Tenn. (CNN/WBBJ/WKRG/BIKER DAD) — Back in 2015, when I worked in Memphis, I wrote about how a West Tennessee Harley dealer was at odds with the motor company over the Confederate flag. The dealership was apparently declaring war on the motor company over its use of the flag.
Now that same dealer, Abernathy’s Harley of Union City Tennessee is under fire from the community for racist posts allegedly made by owner Russel Abernathy. The controversy over Facebook posts is causing a stir in Union City where the dealership is located. “I need to speak and say something when I see stuff like that or even see it or hear it because I need to defend my child I need to defend the people who don’t have a voice,” says Union City Resident Lauren Ferber. Abernathy’s family has owned the dealership for 60 years.
It was enough for Polaris, Abernathy also has a dealership for that brand, to ask him to step down. That company issued a statement last week, “comments attributed to the owner of a multi-line dealership were posted that do not align with Polaris’ commitment to welcome all riders. The dealership has published an apology, and the owner has agreed to step aside in favor of new ownership who would maintain operations, thereby preserving the livelihoods of nearly 100 dealership employees and supporting the Polaris customers that rely on the dealership. Should that transfer not occur, Polaris will terminate our relationship with current ownership.”
Terry Crittendon, is friend of Abernathy, “he does a lot of benefits for a lot of people. We did a crawfish cook a few years ago, me and some buddies, to raise money for St. Jude and he was one of them guys that stepped in to really help us out.”
Crittendon says Abernathy told him that his social media account was hacked by an employee, “it’s not like anybody is being any better by judging him before they know all the facts. It’s probably a disgruntled employee that hacked his password and tried to make him look bad.” But the previous “civil war” over the confederate flag surely did not help his case.
Ferber says when she saw those posts made on Facebook, it broke her heart, “we all need to stick together and pray and work as a team not with violence but with peace. Race shouldn’t be a factor.”
Terry Crittendon who says he has known Abernathy for many years, describes him as a great man, “he really goes above and beyond to help out and he didn’t ask you know what color are other people who you’re helping, are they black, white he never said that he just said ‘yes what can I do to help so as far as the way I know him he’s a good guy.”
WBBJ says they reached out to Abernathy for a comment but he told them over the phone he did not make the posts and has hired a lawyer. I checked with WBBJ on Tuesday afternoon and they have not heard of any action from the motor company yet.
Please be careful out there, and follow me on social media:
Chris Best is the News Director for WKRG. He’s a husband and father of four. He’s also a motorcycle enthusiast.
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