Ohio State Police Help Out Colombian Ultimate Frisbee Team Left On Highway In Cincinnati

The team says they were grateful for how the Ohio State Police Department treated them.

Members of a Colombian ultimate Frisbee team were left on the side of the road after a dispute with a Greyhound bus driver. Thankfully, the Ohio State Highway Patrol was available to lend a helping hand.  

Two players, and one volunteer for the team, said they struggled to overcome a language barrier with a Greyhound bus driver who felt they were being disruptive. After the driver threatened to remove them from the bus, the members of Oso Club Ultimate asked to be let off on the side of the road, according to Luis Rodriguez, head coach of the team. 

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The story took off on social media after several members of the ultimate Frisbee community posted angrily on Twitter and Facebook, alleging that members of Oso were "kicked off the bus" for "speaking Spanish." Some posts on Facebook were liked and shared thousands of times, but Rodriguez declined interview requests from CNN and the National Inquirer, among others, insisting he did not think racism was at play, and he did not want a false story to spread. 

Courtesy of Oso Ultimate

Oso is in the United States to compete in the World Ultimate Club Championships (WUCC), which are hosted every four years by the World Flying Disc Federation and are being held this year in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

The ordeal started when the three members of Oso club, two players and one volunteer, traveling from Columbus to Cincinnati, missed their connection bus. At a Greyhound ticket booth, the players struggled to communicate with several Greyhound representatives and got on their bus late. Because of the delay, they were some of the last people on the bus and sat directly behind the bus driver.

Rodriguez, who was not on the bus but dictated the players' story in English for A Plus, explained what happened next. About 10 minutes into the trip, Rodriguez said, the bus driver warned the members of Oso to quiet down. He told them that if they kept talking to each other loudly, in Spanish, so close to him, he would remove them from the bus.

The players say they were speaking in Spanish to each other while he was making an announcement, and he insisted they were being disruptive. The Oso team members did not understand why he was upset with them, as they felt their conversation was happening in a normal, casual way. Rodriguez insists the players were not yelling, joking around, partying, or being disruptive in a manner that they felt deserved this response. 

Two members of the Oso club spoke no English, and the one member who spoke very little English tried to communicate with the bus driver. As the bus driver became increasingly upset and rose his voice at the players, the volunteer who spoke some English asked the driver to calm down and told him, "if you want to let us off, just let us off," Rodriguez said. In Colombia, Rodriguez explained, it is common to ask bus drivers to drop you off wherever you request. 

The bus driver initially declined because the bus was too far from its destination, but eventually pulled off the highway and dropped the players and their luggage outside a Shell gas station about a half mile from their hotel. A Greyhound spokesperson says it is the company's policy to remove passengers from a bus in a safe place when they are being disruptive.

"If they were Chinese and they were not paying attention to the announcements from the driver, and they were just one bench behind the driver… it could have been the same situation," Rodriguez said. "So more than a racist action, I think it was a lack of communication situation that just grew to a point where there was little respect for each other."

In a statement posted online and given to A Plus, a Greyhound representative noted that the bus driver's first language was not English either and that he "would not discriminate against someone who is not fluent in English." 

Rodriguez said he believes the bus driver was impatient and rude, but chalked it up to a misunderstanding.  A Greyhound spokesperson said the Oso players were being "unruly" on the bus and had asked to be dropped off 32 miles outside the bus's final destination in Cincinnati.

"We have attempted to contact the two customers involved to obtain additional details about what happened," the spokesperson said. "However, those attempts have been unsuccessful."

Once they were left with their things on the side of the road, a nearby police officer noticed them. After coming over and hearing the story, he called in a second patrol car who helped the Oso club members pack their things, get in a car and drive to the hotel. Rodriguez expressed gratitude for being in the United States when this happened and joked that "something weird" may have occurred if they were left on the side of the road in Colombia. He insisted that the players knew they were safe because they were in America, and were very grateful for the Ohio State Highway Patrol's helping hand.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol could not be reached for comment. 

"That was really cool," Rodriguez said. "They approached us in a professional way ... they were really respectful, and our players were really cooperative, and the guy who spoke a little English was able to explain the situation ... super helpful, super friendly."

Rodriguez says the team is focused on making it to the finals of WUCC and showing a high level of sportsmanship with their opponents during the tournament. Oso is planning a few special handshake greetings that they are hoping to use throughout the tournament with opposing teams to promote Spirit of the Game, the honor system that helps facilitate self-officiation in ultimate.

"We're over this," Rodriguez said. "Now, we just want to use this to promote our brand and our handshake with all the teams."

Full disclosure: author Isaac Saul is an ultimate Frisbee player who has competed against Oso club in international play.

Correction: A previous version of this article referred to the Ohio State Police. It is the Ohio State Highway Patrol. 

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