Former U.S. tennis star James Blake was waiting outside his midtown hotel for a car to take him to the U.S. Open when a plainclothes NYPD officer rushed at him, pushed him to the ground, and handcuffed him, reports the Daily News. The white officer ordered Blake, who is black, to roll over, telling him, “Don’t say a word.” Four more white cops eventually raced over and surrounded him, apparently believing the former player was a member of an identity-theft ring working near the hotel on East 42nd Street, close to Grand Central Station. Blake says he was handcuffed for about 15 minutes until one of the cops — the last to arrive on the scene — realized the error and apologized, though the first officer who pummeled and held him down did not.
Blake said he wasn’t sure it was as simple as a case of racial profiling, but that it was “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 also told the News that he was reluctant to talk about what happened, but he saw himself as having a platform where other victims might not. “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 reportedly suffered a scrape to his elbow and a bruised knee in the incident. The NYPD confirmed to USA Today that Blake was mistakenly pointed out as an identity-theft suspect and held while the officers investigated, and that he was later released.
Update 9/10: The NYPD officer who knocked James Blake to ground has been placed on desk duty after police reviewed the video of the incident, reports the New York Times. NYPD Commissioner William Bratton appeared on CNN Thursday morning to discuss the wrongful arrest of the former tennis star, saying that officials are investigating whether the officers involved used excessive force when detaining Blake.
Bratton also fired back against the idea of racial profiling by the officers. The commissioner said NYPD was tracking scammers who were using fake credit cards to buy cell phones, and one of the suspects identified by a witness looked like the “twin brother” of Blake in a photograph. “Let’s put that nonsense to rest right now,” Bratton said. “Race has nothing to do with this.”