Stories of racism and police brutality deserve to be heard and amplified, especially during this time of protest and calls for action following the police killing of George Floyd, who died after three police officers pinned him down, one kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
One such story is that of tennis star James Blake, who joined Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show to recount the time in 2015 when he was tackled by a police officer ahead of the U.S. Open, in which he was doing some sponsored appearances.
Waiting outside his New York hotel to be driven to the tournament, Blake was slammed into a wall by officer James Frascatore, thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and held in custody for about 10-15 minutes. “They said I looked like a suspect,” he said. “Turns out the suspect was for a credit card scam they were running, nothing violent, no reason in my opinion to necessarily tackle someone.”
Blake takes Fallon step-by-step through what would have been a dehumanising and horrific ordeal, and one he recognised as familiar in an instant. “At that point it’s 2015, there’s still already plenty of signs in the media, plenty of cases of police violence, black men and women being killed or harmed by the police, so my first thought is back to the conversation I had with my dad, back to all those incidents, and my first statement was, ‘I’m complying 100 percent. Whatever you say, I’m complying. 100 percent. Because I know I don’t want to be a stat.'”
Blake never got an apology from the officer, in fact, he got the opposite. “In terms of trying to get justice, I tried so hard. I mean, this is why I’m so encouraged right by today’s events, is that I screamed and yelled for two years it took for me to get any sort of a trial, [an] internal trial against this police officer to try to get some sort of accountability and all he lost was five vacation days for this. And it was his fifth incident — it had four others, all against African American men.”
Blake took a moment to praise the protests which have swept America and parts of the globe, and gave words of encouragement to those seeking systemic change. “To see that the protests happened so quickly, so genuinely, and they got results. I don’t know if those officers would have been charged if it wasn’t for the protests because this has happened so many times, so many other cases have happened like this.”