Corrections & Clarifications: This story has been updated significantly. The story as originally published did not meet USA TODAY NETWORK standards for accuracy.
CINCINNATI – Members of an ultimate Frisbee team from Colombia, enroute to a tournament in the Cincinnati area, were kicked off a Greyhound bus Wednesday night in an incident that gained attention on social media.
An Australian Frisbee player, who was staying at the Cincinnati Marriott in Mason with the Colombian team, posted on Facebook that the players told her they were thrown off the bus for speaking Spanish. The link was shared more than 500 times in 16 hours.
"Our policy states that customers must be transported to the destination that is printed on their tickets, and the customers were upset and became unruly when the driver refused to drop them off in another city about 32 miles outside of Cincinnati,'' according to Greyhound spokeswoman Lanesha Gipson. "We have a zero-tolerance policy against unruly or disruptive behavior on board, and if customers exhibit this type of behavior, even after being warned, the driver will pull the bus over in a safe location and remove the customers from the bus.''
Gipson said the Greyhound bus exited the freeway and dropped the players off at a nearby Shell gas station.
Mish Phillips, the Australian athlete who met the players after the incident, said the players told her that they were left stranded on the side of the highway and had to be rescued by police, who transported them to their hotel.
Three players were spotted by a motorist early Thursday morning on Interstate 71 near Montgomery, said Lt. Scott Kuntz of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
The motorist called 911 at 12:29 a.m., and a trooper was dispatched to the scene, Kuntz said.
"The trooper arriving on the scene saw three pedestrians with some luggage who said they were trying to get to a hotel in the Mason area,'' Kuntz said. "He requested another trooper (to help transport the players to their hotel) because of the amount of luggage they had.''
Team officials said the players do not speak English well and had trouble communicating with the bus driver, according to a statement in Spanish on their Facebook page.
Loosely translated, the statement said the team did not want to build on the conflict or fan the flames of discrimination and racism.
The players involved in the incident have refused to comment.
Greyhound insists the players' ethnicity had no bearing on the unidentified bus driver's actions.
"Upon our investigation, we determined that this was not an act of discrimination,'' Gipson said. "In fact, English is not the driver’s first language, either.''
The players were headed to the world ultimate Frisbee championships being held in Warren County, north of Cincinnati. Ultimate involves teams of seven players throwing a Frisbee down the field and trying to score by catching it in the end zone.
Robert Rauch, president of the World Flying Disc Federation – the group putting on the championship – said he was disturbed by the Facebook account.
"Our world championship event will bring together athletes from 36 countries and it is sad to me as an American if our country, a country of immigrants, is not willing to welcome our visitors with open arms," Rauch said.
The Comunidad el Oso Ultimate Club posted on Facebook on Wednesday before getting on the bus with photos saying "Day 1 of #wucc2018 prep is complete!#RoadToCincinnati #EspírituDeOsO#UltimateFrisbee #Deporte"
Follow Randy Tucker on Twitter: @rstucker612