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A Tale of Two Leagues


While the NFL was embarrassing itself once again yesterday by censoring its players’ political speech, a related story was unfolding in the NBA world.

Last January, Milwaukee Bucks’ player Sterling Brown was approached by a Milwaukee Police Department officer for parking illegally outside of a Walgreens while he went inside to grab something. The officer ended up calling for backup. (A reminder that Brown was simply parked illegally.) Five or six squad cars pulled up to the scene. (A reminder that Brown was simply parked illegally.) Brown, a 23-year-old black man who has seen what American police routinely do to black men and women, was standing with his hands in his pockets while surrounded by police officers who were getting increasingly agitated. (A reminder that Brown was simply parked illegally.) They yelled at him to take his hands out of his pockets. (A reminder that Brown was simply parked illegally.) They threw him to the ground. (A reminder that Brown was simply parked illegally.) Then they tased him. (A reminder that Brown was simply parked illegally.) Then they arrested him. (A reminder that Brown was simply parked illegally.)

Today, the MPD released the body cam footage. It could have been worse, of course, because, as Donald Glover reminds us, This is America. But it’s still awful.

Brown released the following statement today:

My experience in January with the Milwaukee Police Department was wrong and shouldn’t happen to anybody.  What should have been a simple parking ticket turned into an attempt at police intimidation, followed by the unlawful use of physical force, including being handcuffed and tased, and then unlawfully booked. This experience with the Milwaukee Police Department has forced me to stand up and tell my story so that I can help prevent these injustices from happening in the future.

Situations like mine and worse happen every day in the black community. Being a voice and a face for people who won’t be heard and don’t have the same platform as I have is a responsibility I take seriously. I am speaking for Dontre Hamilton of Milwaukee, Laquan McDonald of Chicago, Stephon Clark of Sacramento, Eric Garner of New York, and the list goes on. These people aren’t able to speak anymore because of unjust actions by those who are supposed to “serve and protect” the people.

The common denominator in all of these situations has been racism towards the minority community, the abuse of power, and the lack of accountability for officers involved. The lack of repercussions for the police officers involved in so many of these cases is offensive. This is a slap in the face to the victims’ families and communities.

Black men shouldn’t have to have their guard up and instantly be on the defensive when seeing a police officer, but it’s our reality and a real problem. There must be mutual respect and both sides have to figure out how to accomplish this.

There are no easy solutions to this problem, but there are strides that can be made to create change. I will do my part in helping to prevent similar incidents from happening to the minority community in the future.

This is bigger than me. My family, friends, legal team, Priority Sports, Milwaukee Bucks, the black community and the communities of all who stand against injustice plan to continue the fight. Peaceful support to ensure no further damage to our community is the only way to respond. I know many of you will share my anger and frustration, but for our community to progress and grow, we need to build on what we already have and not destroy it. I will take legal action against the Milwaukee Police Department to continue forcing change in our community.

The Bucks organization also released a statement that is about as remarkably blistering as any I’ve seen from such any for-profit institution/company/organization:

The abuse and intimidation that Sterling experienced at the hands of Milwaukee Police was shameful and inexcusable. Sterling has our full support as he shares his story and takes action to provide accountability.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated case. It shouldn’t require an incident involving a professional athlete to draw attention to the fact that vulnerable people in our communities have experienced similar, and even worse, treatment.

We are grateful for the service of many good police officers that courageously protect us, our fans and our city, but racial biases and abuses of power must not be ignored.

There needs to be more accountability.

The Milwaukee Police Department and local officials have acknowledged the challenges they are working to address, and we urge them to enact higher standards and more direct accountability. We all want to be able to trust each and every officer serving to protect us.

Incidents like this remind us of the injustices that persist.  As an organization, we will support Sterling and build on our work with local leaders and organizations to foster safe neighborhoods and better our community.

So while the NFL was busy trying to stamp out player protest, the Sterling Brown video and the statements from Brown and the Bucks emphasized precisely why we/they protest.



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