Retired tennis star James Blake thought he was being greeted by a fan … that was until he was tackled to the ground and handcuffed.
Blake says he was standing in front of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York on Wednesday, preparing to head to the U.S. Open. When a plain-clothes police officer slammed him to the ground and handcuffed him.
The retired tennis pro tells the Daily News that he was completely taken off guard by what he later learned was a case of mistaken identity. “Maybe I’m naïve, but I just assumed it was someone I went to high school with or something who was running at me to give me a big hug, so I smiled at the guy.”
Blake claims no one gave him any reason as to why he was face down on the concrete. “Don’t say a word,” the NYPD officer allegedly stated. But when Blake pressed the cops for answers, he says they told him, “We’ll tell you. You are in safe hands.”
It was 15 minutes before a retired cop recognized James and alerted the arresting officers to their mistake. Apparently they were looking for someone in connection to a credit card fraud investigation … that man was standing near Blake and was later arrested.
Because Blake is African American, many have speculated that this incident is further proof of racial profiling. But James thinks it’s more complicated than that. “I don’t know if it’s as simple as that. To me it’s as simple as unnecessary police force, no matter what my race is. 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,” he stated.
Blake also stopped Good Morning America on Thursday to shed more light on this injustice. You can watch the full interview here.
The officer who slammed James to the ground has been placed on a modified assignment. Blake, who suffered cuts and bruises from the ordeal, has pledged to continue to use his voice to bring awareness to this situation and others like it.