Bob Johnson Accuses Hotel of Racial Profiling After World's First Black Billionaire Refused Room for Wearing Sunglasses

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Bob Johnson, founder of BET and The RLJ Companies, talks to reporters upon his arrival for the annual Allen and Co. conference at Sun Valley, Idaho July 9, 2013. He has accused a hotel of racial profiling for refusing to give him a room because he was wearing sunglasses. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

Bob Johnson, the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET), has accused a five-star hotel in Florida of racial profiling after it refused to give him a room because he was wearing sunglasses at the front desk.

Johnson said he attempted to check in to the Eau Palm Beach hotel following a fishing trip on August 24.

The 72-year-old, who became the world's first black billionaire after selling BET in 2001, told WPBF he handed over his driver's license, passport and American Express card to the female staff member on the front desk in order to book a room for two nights.

"Then she says 'Mr. Johnson, you need to take off your sunglasses,'" Johnson said, adding he believed she was joking at the time.

Johnson said he explained that his glasses were prescription and refused to take them off. "She said well, I can't check you in if you don't take off your glasses," Johnson added.

The hotel confirmed the incident in a statement but insisted asking people to remove sunglasses is common policy to ensure they are who they say they are.

"It is standard operating procedure in the industry to ask to make sure that the person who is presenting themselves to check-in and they present identification, that it does match," said Eau Palm Beach spokesman Nick Gold. "And if they're wearing dark glasses with a ball cap low over their face, you want to make sure that it is the same person, much like what would happen at TSA rules going through the airport."

Johnson disagreed with the policy and said he does not enforce it at any of the 165 hotels he owns.

"I think it's a silly rule and I think it has overtones of racial profiling," Johnson said.

Police were called the hotel at the request of Johnson, but the incident ended with the 72-year-old leaving. Johnson vowed he would ever return to the hotel.

"We'd love for him to come back," Gold added. "All guests are welcome here at Eau Palm Beach Resort and Spa, and we pride ourselves on how we treat our guests."

After becoming a billionaire in 2001, Johnson went on to found asset management firm RLJ in 2004. However, Forbes no longer lists Johnson as being a billionaire, with his net worth now estimated to be around $550m.

Bob Johnson Accuses Hotel of Racial Profiling After World's First Black Billionaire Refused Room for Wearing Sunglasses | U.S.