Dealer says he was hacked; H-D, Honda, and Polaris aren't buying it.
Harley-Davidson has ended its business dealings with Tennessee motorcycle dealer Russell Abernathy following a racist rant on his Facebook page, and sources report Honda has done the same. Polaris says it will also terminate its relationship with Abernathy’s dealerships, if he retains control of the business.
Abernathy owns Harley-Davidson, Honda, and Polaris powersports dealers around Union City, Tennessee. He’s a third-generation Harley-Davidson dealer owner, and the largest-volume Polaris ATV/UTV dealership in the U.S., according to his company’s website.
It looks like that’s all over now. A post on Abernathy’s Facebook page in mid-June, 2020, made racist comments and slammed Black Lives Matter. Activist Twitter account #theTNHoller picked up on that post, and shared screenshots, telling people to buy their bikes and ATVs elsewhere. After that, things picked up steam. Protesters gathered outside Abernathy’s business; eventually, the companies Abernathy’s dealerships represent got involved, and investigated.
The result? Harley-Davidson ended its business relationships with Abernathy. Harley-Davidson's statement said “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."
As for Honda, it also supposedly shut down its relationship with Abernathy on June 25, 2020, although there will be details to sort out thanks to Tennessee’s laws surrounding dealerships. A statement on Abernathy’s dealership page claimed his Facebook page was hacked, resulting in the racist post; Honda said it would investigate, and take “swift and aggressive action” if needed. It sounds as if that’s exactly what happened, although we are waiting on official confirmation from Honda.
A corporate statement from Polaris said the racist comments “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.” In other words, Polaris wants to be fair to dealership employees and customers, but wants nothing to do with racist social media posts.