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Editorial: Memphis restaurant denying Parker service still comes up empty in win column

I love the atmosphere and competitiveness of the NBA playoffs. There's really nothing else like it. I also don't mind some friendly trash talk among Spurs fans and fans of opposing teams, and I'm all about a city getting behind their team.

But at some point, there's a line where fun and games and a little friendly competition ends and unnecessary behavior starts. A Memphis restaurant has now toed that line.

The Memphis Grizzlies are the San Antonio Spurs' opponents for the Western Conference Finals and while every Spurs fan has that nasty taste in their mouths from losing to these same Grizzlies in 2011, I would never expect the city of San Antonio to host the Grizzlies with anything but the world class service they are known for.

The tourism industry, local restaurants and the like are used to hosting all types of sports teams and athletes for NCAA tournaments, NBA, WNBA, arena football games and recently boxing so it's no surprise when I hear of the friendly and courteous service all over town.

On Friday night, with the Spurs and several of our media compatriots in Memphis for the next two games, I saw Facebook updates with photos of Beale Street and other local attractions, and then all of a sudden I saw something unexpected.

Tony Parker had been denied service at a French-Creole restaurant in Memphis. Restaurant Iris chef Kelly English apparently denied service according to several messages on Twitter that English confirmed to be true.

The restaurant’s Twitter account soon after sent out a message with the Grizzlies playoff slogan and hashtag, “We don’t bluff.”

After both positive and negative responses to the confirmed rumor, English chimed in again.

“We have a thirteen table restaurant. There have been times I couldn't get my wife or parents in. I can't create a table, Tony Parker or not.”

While I can understand having a packed restaurant and the restaurant’s website has a form for reservations, his second response would seem a little more sincere had that been explained from the start instead of just tweeting out “confirmed” on whether or not he denied Parker service.

Sure Parker may not have made a reservation, and sure, all 13 tables may have been booked, but as a restaurateur, denial of service has to be your last resort. The restaurant’s website claims it has party rooms available, and beyond that, there seems to be no explanation that they tried to fit Parker and his party in or tried to make some other type of arrangements, only a stern confirmation of the rumor, and the fact that regardless if it is Tony Parker or not, he wasn’t going to get a table.

In the customer service industry, image and reputation are everything. While both Kelly and the restaurant seem to have no problem with either, now might not be the best time to start changing that. While Memphians are cheering on their local chef and eatery, everywhere else this paints them and possibly the city in a dim light.

The Spurs will not be the last team to go through Memphis, and while making dining decisions, one would wonder how heavily a refusal of service to another NBA player plays into those decisions.

I’m sure English and the restaurant will do fine regardless of this issue, as they are both well lauded in the culinary world, but handling a situation better and being sincere in response also go a long way.

I personally would be shocked to hear that a local San Antonio establishment did the same to an opposing team’s player. Even on the busiest of nights with a reservation list as long as the riverwalk, I have a feeling Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol would have no problem finding a table.

For a city looking for a win, Memphis certainly didn’t need a loss coming from within.

About Michael A. De Leon

Michael founded Project Spurs in 2004. He started The Spurscast, the first Spurs podcast on the Internet, in 2005. Michael has been interviewed by the BBC, SportTalk, the Sports Reporters Radio Show, MemphisSportLive, OKC Sports Wrap and ESPN radio among others. He is a credentialed member of the media for the San Antonio Spurs and Austin Toros. He is also the founder of Project Spurs' sister sites, Toros Nation and Stars Hoops.

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