American Airlines has been forced to apologise to two professional basketball players were thrown off a flight after being wrongly accused of stealing blankets.

A flight attendant accused the players, who were en route to a game, of taking blankets from the first class cabin and made to get off the plane before take off.

Marquis Teague and Trahson Burrell boarded the plane on Christmas Eve and due to fly from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to Sioux Falls, South Dakota on a flight operated by Envoy Air, a subsidiary of American Airlines.

It later emerged the pair had been given the blankets by passengers, according to the BBC.

Both of the basketball players are African American, as was the flight attendant involved.

The athletes play for the National Basketball Association’s minor league team Memphis Hustle.

Assistant coach Darnell Lazere tweeted that he believed the incident was driven by race.

American Airlines said it was reviewing the incident.

“We apologise for what occurred on this flight. We take pride in bringing people together, and we know that on this flight we let some of our customers down,” a spokesman said.