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James Blake, the former American tennis player who was ranked as high as No. 4 in the world, was reportedly handcuffed and slammed to the ground outside his hotel in New York City on Wednesday by five plainclothes police officers, according to the New York Daily News.
The Daily News reports that the five officers, all of whom were white, mistook Blake, who is black, for a suspect in an identify-theft ring.
Blake was reportedly checking his cellphone and waiting for a car to arrive to take him to the US Open, where he was to make a corporate-sponsorship appearance, when he looked up and saw a man charging him. From the Daily News:
Blake said he had just answered a few questions from a writer for a tennis magazine and was texting when he looked up and saw someone in shorts and a T-shirt charging at him, splitting the doorman outside the Hyatt, an official hotel for the U.S. Tennis Association.
“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 said. Blake said the officer, who he said was not wearing a badge, picked him up and threw him down on the sidewalk, yelled at him to roll over on his face and said, “Don’t say a word.”
He said he was handcuffed for 15 minutes before the officers realized they had the wrong guy. The Daily News continued:
Asked if he considered it a case of racial profiling, Blake said, “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.
“You’d think they could say, ‘Hey, we want to talk to you. We are looking into something. I was just standing there. I wasn’t running. It’s not even close (to be okay). It’s blatantly unnecessary. You would think at some point they would get the memo that this isn’t okay, but it seems that there’s no stopping it.”
Blake eventually made it to the US Open, but said he was still shaken up by the incident and would like an apology from the NYPD.
We’ve reached out to the NYPD for comment and will update this post when we hear back.