The head women’s basketball coach at the University of California called out Southwest Airlines on Twitter after a ticket counter employee forced her to “prove” her biracial son was her child. Lindsay Gottlieb tweeted Monday night, “I’m appalled that after approx 50 times flying with my 1 year old son, ticket counter personnel told me I had to ‘prove’ that he was my son, despite having his passport. She said because we have different last name. My guess is because he has a different skin color.”
Gottlieb, 40, was traveling with her 1-year-old son, Jordan Caleb Martin, and fiance, Patrick Martin, back to Oakland from Denver after a trip to support one of her players at the Team USA basketball trials in Colorado, according to her Twitter account. She has been the Bears head coach since 2011. Southwest Airlines apologized for the incident, according to CBS San Francisco.
Here’s what you need to know about Lindsay Gottlieb:
1. Gottlieb Says the Ticket Counter Employee Asked Her to ‘Prove’ She Was Her Son’s Mother With a Facebook Post
Lindsay Gottlieb was traveling back to California from Denver after spending the Memorial Day weekend there cheering on Kenzie Forbes, an incoming freshman for the Bears basketball team, at the Team USA U18 trials, according to her Twitter account. Her fiance, Patrick Martin, and 1-year-old son, Jordan Martin, went with her on the “holiday weekend adventure.” While trying to check in for their flight home, Gottlieb says they ran into problems with a Southwest Airlines employee at the ticket counter.
“I’m appalled that after approx 50 times flying with my 1 year old son, ticket counter personnel told me I had to ‘prove’ that he was my son, despite having his passport. She said because we have different last name. My guess is because he has a different skin color,” Gottlieb tweeted Monday night. Gottlieb tweeted that the employee first asked her for proof with a birth certificate. She said the employee claimed it was “federal law,” which Gottlieb says is not true. Gottlieb said the employee then asked her to “prove” she was Jordan’s mother with a “Facebook post.” Gottlieb exclaimed in her tweet, “What??” She said another mother in line behind her said she had never been asked for proof about her child despite them having different last names. Gottlieb said “not shockingly” the other mother was not part of a “mixed race fam.”
Gottlieb tweeted about the incident to Southwest Airlines, saying it was “demeaning and insensitive, not to mention inefficient.” She said she and her family would have missed their flight if had not been delayed. Gottlieb told KPIX_TV she has flown many times on Southwest Airlines with her young son, since that airline was used for the team’s travels during the past season, but had never run into a similar issue before.
“We are fine. It was wild, but, I fear, much more common for people that don’t look like me,” Gottlieb tweeted.
Gottlieb told KPIX, “I do feel like as a white female, with a position of privilege, and a platform where someone is going to listen, it is my responsibility to say, ‘hey, this happened, this isn’t okay.’ And maybe somewhere down the line, that helps my son, who is bi-racial and will be for his entire life.”
2. Gottlieb, Who Will be Marrying Her Fiance in September, Gave Birth to Her Son, Jordan, in May 2017
Gottlieb has been engaged to her longtime boyfriend, Patrick Martin, since March 2017 and they are planning on getting married in September. Gottlieb said he proposed while they were talking about whether her team would make the NCAA Tournament, which the Bears did. “He’s a big math and analytics nerd, gotten way into the basketball stuff. He built his own analytical model to crunch the numbers of the bubble teams, and he had us in,” she told The Associated Press in 2017. While talking about tournament possibilities, Martin came over and proposed, saying, “‘How bout we do stuff like this for the rest of our life,” Gottlieb told the AP. She responded, “Sounds like a plan.”
Martin is a senior finance manager for a genetic diagnostics company in San Francisco. Gottlieb talked to FanSided in 2017 about how she handles race as a white coach of a majority black team in a sport where the majority of players are black, while the majority of coaches are white. She also talked about her perspective of being a white woman with a black fiance and a mixed race son.
“When I first started to coach this Cal team and love them as human beings and see what they go through sometimes, it made me feel more like, ‘Wow’. This isn’t an esoteric, far-off concept; these are people I love having to be scared when they walk around,” she told FanSided. “Of course it’s more personal when it comes to your own flesh and blood, but I think it’s a good kind of test because isn’t that how we are supposed to feel about everybody? Aren’t you supposed to love your neighbor and brother the same? So while me having a fiancé and a son, sure it’s more personal, but it’s also a reminder that you’re supposed to care that much about your neighbor and I try to always see it in that context.”
She gave birth to her son, Jordan, on May 7, 2017.
Gottlieb has talked about balancing being a new mother and a basketball coach of a Division I program.
“The job to me is like a family, a lifestyle job, and I’ve always meant that and believed it,” Gottlieb told The Associated Press in October 2017. “But now being able to integrate Jordan kind of for me brings a new dimension to it. Obviously I feel fortunate to have worked to be in a position to be the boss, where I can do it this way. And also to be able to have supportive administration and financially be able to do the nanny so I can do it the way that I want to and not really sacrifice. He won’t be here every day forever but with the feeding now it makes it easier. At some point it might be he comes by two days a week or three days a week, or maybe he comes by and pops into practice and then goes to watch an Olympian in the pool or goes to a class in Berkeley, a kiddie class. It’s so cool the opportunities for him.”
Gottlieb added, “It was really important to me that the players see that I’m not going to be any different as a coach. I’m going to be accessible to them still. I’m going to be hard working and dedicated, I’m just going to do it while also being a mom. Whether or not they’re conscious of that message I think it’s important for them to see it and maybe 10 years down the road when one of them is thinking about children they feel like, ‘OK, I can do this.'”
Martin told the San Francisco Chronicle in January 2018, “Linds is all-in on basketball; she breathes it. She still has that same intensity and approach to the game and her job, but I would say Jordan has added a new dimension to her life.”
3. Gottlieb Has Led the Bears to 6 NCAA Tournaments, Including a Final Four Run in 2013
Lindsay Gottlieb has been the head coach of the University of California women’s basketball team since 2011, leading the Bears to a record of 159-76 during that span, along with six trips to the NCAA Tournament and a 2013 Final Four run. The team lost that year in the national semifinals to Louisville. “What I said to our team in the locker room is that we can be disappointed about a half a basketball that we wish we had back. We could be disappointed to not be playing on Tuesday night,” Gottlieb said after the game. “But I’m going to think about that for two minutes, and for the next 10,000 minutes I’m going to think about what this group did for the University of California.”
Gottlieb is known for her use of social media and the Internet to reach out to athletes, fans and the media. She keeps her Twitter regularly updated with photos and videos about her team and her personal life, including her son, who is often at practices, games and other events. She has made it her goal to make the Bears one of the elite basketball programs in the country and has embraced technology as a way to help get there.
“Being ahead of the game on technology is the way the world is going. You can reach more people. Women’s basketball is still a grassroots initiative, and the more that I can do to help build this program and our brand, the more I will do,” Gottlieb told Childress Sports in 2012. :I’m using social media to open the doors and the windows to our process and whoever is interested in learning about it, here it is. I think that’s where the more successful companies and the more successful teams get an edge is by reaching more people.”
She added that she created an “Individual Development Plan,” a system for her players that helps them stay organized by putting info about everything from practice times and short charts to class syllabi and tutor appointments on their phones. “Everything we do is geared towards making sure they are as successful as possible and as high performing as possible while they’re here as student-athletes,” Gottlieb continued, “and at the same time making sure they’re as high functioning in whatever they choose to do when they walk out of here.”
Gottlieb began her coaching career as an assistant at Syracuse in 1999. After two years there, she moved on to New Hampshire, where she was an assistant for one season. She spent 2002 to 2005 coaching at Richmond before making her first stop at the University of California. She was an assistant coach with the Bears from 2005 to 2008, including one season as the associate head coach on Joanne Boyle’s staff. She then became the head coach of UC Santa Barbara. While at UCSB, she led the Gauchos to two Big West Championships and was named the Big West Coach of the Year in 2009. When Boyle left Cal for Virginia in 2011, Gottlieb was hired as her replacement.
4. She Is a New York Native & Played Basketball at Brown University
Gottlieb was born and raised in Scarsdale, New York, where she played basketball at Scarsdale Senior High School. She began playing basketball when she was in fourth grade and has always had a love for the sport. During her senior year of high school, she tore her ACL and her interest in coaching was first piqued. Her high school coach gave her a shirt that said “coach” while she spent that season on the bench and it gave her a new perspective, she told the Scarsdale News in 2011.
She told the Cal Sports Quarterly in 2012, “I was the little girl who wanted any kind of ball in her hands at any second. Whatever sports season it was, I wanted to play. I pretty much just wanted to be playing ball all the time.”
Gottlieb has three siblings. Her sister, Chris, is a law professor at New York Unviersity. Her brother, Peter, is a lawyer in New York and her sister, Suzy, is a veterinarian.
“She’s always been a people person,” her older sister Chris Gottlieb told the San Jose Mercury News in 2013. “Since she was a kid bouncing around with a ponytail, it was ‘everybody loves Lindsay.'”
Gottlieb’s father, Stephen Gottlieb, was a civil court judge in Queens County for two decades and was appointed to the state Supreme Court. He also served as a New York assemblyman. Her father, a Democrat, was heavily involved in politics and took Gottlieb to the Democratic National Convention when she was 12, she told the Mercury News. Her mother, Carol Gottlieb, a stockbroker, died when she was a sophomore in college. Both of her parents attended Ivy League schools.
“It’s really pretty crazy to go to family functions,” Gottlieb told the Cal Sports Quarterly. “My sister’s husband is a lawyer and my cousin, my cousin’s wife, my uncle and my grandfather. At one point my grandfather, my dad and my uncle were the law firm of Gottlieb, Gottlieb and Gottlieb.” She said she was never pressured to go into law or follow a specific career path. “It was exactly the opposite – they really wanted us to do what we were passionate aboute.”
Gottlieb followed her parents footsteps and attended Brown University, where she played basketball her freshman year. But after her mother’s death, Gottlieb took a year to study abroad in Australia and left the basketball team. She returned determined to become a coach. “This idea that I could affect women 18 to 22 years old in a significant way and get paid to do Xs and Os and talk about basketball? This is the perfect field for me,” Gottlieb told the newspaper.
She told Cal Sports Quarterly, “I tore my ACL my senior year of high school, so that changed what my college career was going to look like. I think that in a lot of ways that informed my path of becoming a coach, because when you get hurt, you’re forced into looking at the game differently, looking at your own role differently.”
5. Gottlieb Says Southwest Should Have ‘Better Training’ & the Airline Says It Has Launched an Investigation
After the incident, Lindsay Gottlieb tweeted at Southwest Airlines saying, “I would advise better training for employees to avoid this happening to others.” The basketball coach and mom told KPIX-TV that she doesn’t believe what happened to her Monday night reflects the attitude of Southwest Airlines as a whole.
“I suspect it was just one insensitive employee,” she told the news station. “It hurt my feelings. It made me feel a little bit less than and it’s not okay.” She told the news station she felt “drained” by what happened. “I know people sort of experience things like this every single day, which is why I reached out to Southwest, and I said, ‘Hey, this isn’t OK.'”
Gottlieb has always made teaching her players lessons about life outside the court one of her missions, according to a 2017 FanSided article. And this incident is just another teaching moment for her.
“I am not saying you have to believe what I believe. What I’m saying is we have to make our players feel safe to talk about things outside of basketball that are important to them. We have to create an environment where they know about more than just pick and roll defense. I think we are developing the next generation,” Gottlieb said in 2017. “I never, ever want a player in my program to think that they have to think what I think or have the same religion I have or have the same political beliefs. But I want them to exercise more parts of themselves than their bodies when it comes to basketball. We are responsible for 18-to-22 year olds who go through mental and emotional stuff, and if we are shut off to that, the I don’t think we are doing our jobs.”
She added, “I hope what I’m saying doesn’t alienate anyone. I just think as coaches in this day and age that you can’t put your head in the sand and say ‘I only coach basketball’. I just want them to feel that they have an adult figure and a coach that cares for them more than in just basketball. To not be tapped into how they may be feeling, I think is negligent.”
Southwest Airlines told KPIX in a statement that they apologize for what happened and have launched an investigation into what happened.
“We’re looking into this specific interaction, and we have engaged with the customer directly to address her concerns,” the statement to the news station said. “Our employees are well regarded for their hospitality and we always strive for the best experience for anyone who entrusts us with their travel.”