The NBA Players Association said it was “concerned” about the arrest of two Atlanta Hawks players following an altercation with New York police outside of a nightclub earlier this week that resulted in a season-ending injury for forward Thabo Sefolosha and that the union was conducting its own investigation into the incident.
Sefolosha and teammate Pero Antic were arrested early Wednesday on suspicion of interfering with police efforts to set up a crime scene after Indiana Pacers forward Chris Copeland was stabbed inside the club. Sefolosha and Antic were at the same club and, according to police reports, refused to disperse and resisted arrest. Sefolosha suffered a broken right fibula and ligament damage in the incident, injuries that were left untreated as he remained in custody overnight and into the next day. As a result of the injuries, Sefolosha will undergo surgery and miss the remainder of the regular season and the postseason.
“The players’ union is concerned about the circumstances of Thabo Sefolosha and Pero Antic’s arrest and is doing its own investigation of the situation,” NBPA spokeswoman Tara Greco told ESPN on Friday. “The union was fully engaged in supporting all three players in court and in the precinct this week, and will continue to stay engaged as each situation evolves.”
Video of the incident was obtained by TMZ, the first of which it said shows Sefolosha “grabbed around the neck — and flung to the ground — in a struggle with several NYPD officers during his Wednesday arrest.” The site posted a second video, shot by a witness, on Friday evening, which it said shows “Sefolosha being tugged in different directions by six officers. Additionally … you can see one of the officers take a big swing with his baton.”
In a joint statement released Wednesday, Sefolosha and Antic apologized for the negative attention the incident may have brought on their families and Hawks teammates and indicated their intention to fight the charges: “We will contest these charges and look forward to communicating the facts of the situation at the appropriate time.”
Antic said on Friday that he and Sefolosha had nothing to do with the Copeland stabbing and that the incident outside the nightclub was “a pure example of being at the wrong place at the wrong time,” according to ESPN.
“There’s a video out that speaks for itself,” Antic said. “The only thing I can say is that we feel bad for the bad publicity that we brought to the Hawks organization and the Hawks family.”
Not only has the Players Association been active in investigating the incident but “privately, sources say, Hawks officials also have begun to raise questions about the specific circumstances that led to Sefolosha being held by police for several hours with a broken fibula,” ESPN reported.
The Atlanta Hawks are currently sitting in first place and losing Sefolosha, a key defensive player off the bench, is seen as a blow to the team heading into the playoffs.
Sefolosha released an official statement through the Hawks on Tuesday afternoon, thanking his teammates for their support and confirming that his season-ending injury was caused by the encounter with police. “On advice of counsel, I hope you can appreciate that I cannot discuss the facts of the case,” the statement read. “Those questions will be answered by my attorney in a court of law. I will simply say that I am in great pain, have experienced a significant injury and that the injury was caused by the police.”