A former Super Bowl champion defensive lineman accused JPMorgan Chase workers in Arizona of using racially charged remarks against him when he tried to secure and invest his earnings.
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Jimmy Kennedy, who won a Super Bowl ring in 2011 as a member of the New York Giants, recorded interactions with one JPMorgan worker who suggested that he was “intimidating” because “they don’t see people like you a lot.” The recording was published in The New York Times on Wednesday.
“You’re bigger than the average person, period. And you’re also an African-American,” Charles Belton, who is also black, told Kennedy in the recording. “We’re in Arizona. I don’t have to tell you about what the demographics are in Arizona. They don’t see people like you a lot.”
Kennedy played in the NFL from 2003 to 2011. The St. Louis Rams took him with the No. 12 pick of the 2003 NFL Draft from Penn State. He was with the Rams from 2003 to 2006. He then played for the Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings and the Giants.
He earned about $13 million in his career but when he tried to invest about $800,000 of his money and attempted to become a “private client” with JPMorgan to receive some additional perks the average client wouldn’t receive, the Times reported he was getting the runaround.
Kennedy was initially paired with financial adviser Ricardo Peters, who had also complained about racial discrimination and felt like he had a target on his back by his superiors. Peters filed a complaint with the bank that he alerted his then-boss, Frank Venniro, he was being treated differently because he was black and was suggested that he work for a less-wealthy bank, according to the Times.
Two months after the complaint was filed, Venniro told Peters he was being fired. There was reportedly no reason behind the dismissal and that he was just given “marching orders.” JPMorgan, after a lawsuit was filed by Peters against the company, said the adviser was terminated for “improperly assigning credit for a new client to an employee who managers didn’t think deserved it.”
Kennedy was then left out in the open with no new adviser while some of his money was being held up. The former player said Belton became his new adviser but felt like he was inexperienced and was only assigned to him because he was black.
According to the Times, Kennedy was not given the “private client” status when he was working with Peters and he complained to his new adviser and Venniro. Belton urged Kennedy not to talk to Venniro again. In the recordings published by the newspaper, Belton told Kennedy that he was a big black man in Arizona and that Venniro was afraid to tell Kennedy his “private status” was deleted after Peters was fired.
When Kennedy came back to raise questions about his private client status, Belton reportedly told the former NFL player that banks were scared of dealing with him and that he was better off only dealing with Belton.
“They’re not going to say this, but I don’t have the same level of intimidation that they have — you know what I’m saying? — not only being a former athlete but also being two black men,” Belton said, referring to Venniro, according to the Times. “You sit in front of him, you’re like three times his size — you feel what I’m saying? — he already probably has his perception of how these interactions could go.”
Belton added: “We’ve seen people that are not of your stature get irate, and it’s like, ‘Well, if this dude gets upset, like what’s going to happen to me?’”
Kennedy has since pulled out most of his money from the bank and filed a grievance with a watchdog group.
A JPMorgan spokeswoman defended the treatment of Kennedy and Peters and wasn’t aware of the recordings until they were published in the newspaper. The spokeswoman said one of its executive directors was placed on administrative leave as the bank investigates the incidents.