The latest accusation of racial profiling and police brutality comes from a familiar face in the sports world: Former tennis star James Blake.
Blake was in New York City for the U.S. Open on Wednesday when, as reported by Wayne Coffey of the New York Daily News, a plainclothes NYPD officer charged at him, picked him up and slammed him to the ground, mistaking him for a suspect in an identity-theft ring that had been operating in the area.
The Connecticut native and former world No. 4, who retired from tennis at the U.S. Open two years ago, initially thought the officer was possibly an old friend “running at me to give me a big hug.”
Four other cops, all white, soon joined the first officer, handcuffing and detaining Blake for 15 minutes, despite the fact that he showed I.D. and cooperated immediately.
“I’m going to do whatever you say. I’m going to cooperate,” Blake said he told the first officer when he was on the ground. “But do you mind if I ask what this is all about?”
Blake, an African American who names Arthur Ashe as his idol, admits that racial profiling was probably involved, but was more immediately concerned by the brutal nature of the encounter. His left leg was bruised and his right elbow cut in the incident.
“To me it’s as simple as unnecessary police force, no matter what my race is,” he told Coffey. “In my mind there’s probably a race factor involved, but no matter what there’s no reason for anybody to do that to anybody.”
Attention surrounding racial profiling and police brutality has reached a fever pitch this year, sparked by the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in August of last year. It’s rare that the accusations come from high-profile figures like Blake, but it’s certainly not unheard of — in April, two NBA players, Thabo Sefolosha and Pero Antic, were involved in an encounter with police outside of a nightclub in Manhattan, and Sefolosha sustained a season-ending leg injury that he claimed was caused by police.
His celebrity is one of the reason that Blake decided to speak to the NYDN about the incident.
“I have resources to get to the bottom of this. I have a voice,” he said. “But what about someone who doesn’t have those resources and doesn’t have a voice?”
Blake wants an apology from the NYPD and for the officers involved to be reprimanded. ThinkProgress reached out to the NYPD, but they did not immediately respond to request for comment.
In response to ThinkProgress’ request for comment, the NYPD gave the following statement: “Today James Blake was detained by police in midtown Manhattan in regards to an ongoing investigation into fraudulently purchased cell phones, after being misidentified by a cooperating witness. Once Blake was properly identified and found to have no connection to the investigation, he was released from police custody immediately. In regards to the alleged improper use of force, the Police Commissioner directed the internal affairs bureau to investigate.”