Former Cardinals outfielder Curt Ford said he was punched by a white man at a St. Louis area gas station after the man shouted racial slurs at him and told him to “go back to Ferguson.” The incident may be enough for Ford to move away from the area, he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in an interview on Thursday.
“I’m going to let the authorities handle this situation, but I’ve had enough of St. Louis,” Ford said. “You hear about this kind of stuff happening, and I always knew it existed because of my previous experience working here in St. Louis, but you try to keep away from it and there is just no way you can do that unless you stay inside like a hermit.”
The incident, which took place on Wednesday, involved Ford and 37-year-old James Street approaching the gas station at the same time. When Ford got out of his car to pump gas, Street began shouting racial slurs at him, and Ford proceeded with paying for his gas while trying to avoid a confrontation, according to police. “Street was exiting the store when he approached Ford, and unprovoked, punched him in the face, and drove away, according to police,” the Post-Dispatch reported.
Street has been charged with one count of assault motivated by discrimination in the third degree.
Racial tensions have been high in the St. Louis area for the past several months, sparked by the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown at the hands of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson last August, and reignited by the failure of county prosecutors to bring charges against Wilson.
The community’s outrage quickly spilled over into its sports following Brown’s death. A confrontation between protesters and Cardinals fans at a playoff game last October turned ugly, as a mostly white group of fans was caught on video shouting “Let’s go Darren!” and other racist remarks at a mostly black group of protesters. Several St. Louis Rams players walked onto the field before a December game with their arms raised in the emblematic “Hands up, don’t shoot” gesture, a move that drew the outrage of a local police union.
And while the protests may be new, the tensions between the predominantly black community of Ferguson and its largely white police force have been simmering for some time, Chicago Bears defensive end and St. Louis native David Bass told The MMQB last year. “When I go home I get pulled over just because,” he said, “and they’ll say, ‘We’re doing random checks,’ which is against the law. Or they say, there was a theft and the getaway car was like my black Durango. When they don’t know who you are, all you are is black. They don’t know that I graduated from college, or that I’m in the NFL. But when they find that out, they want to stop and have a conversation.”