NYPD Apologizes For Tackling Black Tennis Champ James Blake

Photo: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images.
Update: New York City Police Comissioner Bill Bratton apologized to tennis star James Blake yesterday and said that Mayor Bill de Blasio also wanted to say he's sorry. Blake, 35, is a former tennis champ who was waiting for a car to take him to the US Open yesterday when he was tackled by a plainclothes NYPD officer.

It was a case of mistaken identity and the officer is being investigated, Bratton said.

Speaking on Good Morning America Thursday, Blake said he was handcuffed for fifteen minutes before police told him they'd gotten the wrong man . "The first words out of my mouth were, ‘I’m going to 100 percent cooperate. I don’t want any incident or whatever,’ just out of reaction from what I’ve seen in the media," said Blake, who's dad is African American, in reference to incidents of police brutality that have dominated headlines this year.

This story was originally published on September 9, 2015.

New York police have become notorious for detaining people over minor or non-existent offenses, but until Wednesday, they hadn't yet mistaken a man who was once one of the world's best tennis players for a thief.

James Blake, a 35-year-old retired tennis pro who attended Harvard and is in New York for the U.S. Open, spoke to the New York Daily News about being thrown to the ground and handcuffed by five white police officers. The details are terrifying.

Blake was standing outside a hotel on East 42nd Street waiting for a car when he was tackled and handcuffed. Blake said the officers did not tell him why they had used so much force when he had been standing still and texting when one officer approached him. Eventually, according to the Daily News, the officers surrounding him said he had been identified as someone who had been running an identity theft ring.

The officers let Blake go after about 15 minutes, but the whole ordeal left the former number 4 player in the world unsettled and frustrated — and suspicious about why he was targeted. "I don't know if it's as simple as that," he told the Daily News. "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."

The NYPD was forced to reform its policies for stopping people and searching them after a massive lawsuit from civil rights groups. For years, police stopped black and latino men at astronomical rates compared to white New Yorkers, and the changes were meant to protect minorities from exactly the sort of suspicion Blake encountered.

Blake told the Daily News that he hadn't wanted to say anything about the incident, but he decided to speak out to highlight how common police brutality is.

"I have resources to get to the bottom of this. I have a voice," Blake said. "But what about someone who doesn't have those resources and doesn't have a voice?"
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