If tennis great James Blake had done the obvious thing and resisted being tackled by an apparent thug on a New York sidewalk who didn’t identify himself as a cop before attacking him, he would probably be dead today like Eric Garner, or at least seriously injured or tased.
Blake, 35, a well-known black athlete who not too long ago was the fourth-ranked tennis player in the world, was just leaning against the front of the Grand Hyatt where he was staying in midtown Manhattan when five undercover cops, who claim they “mistook” him for the suspect in a cellphone theft case, walked towards him, whereupon one of them, James Frascatore, suddenly jumped him, threw him violently to the ground face first, climbed on top of him, yanked his arms behind his back and cuffed him, in the process causing minor injuries to an elbow and eye (injuries that are no small matter for an athlete!).
There is so much wrong with what happened to Blake it’s hard to know where to begin. In a surveillance video, Blake can be seen just resting there on the sidewalk and actually smiling at the men approaching him, he says, because he assumed, as a celebrity, that they were fans who had recognized him and were coming to greet him. Blake, a Harvard grad, was calm and relaxed, not armed, and not at all acting like someone who planned to flee. There was, in other words, absolutely no reason for the officers not to simply identify themselves and ask politely to see his identification. Even then, if at that point they still suspected him, they could have taken him peacefully to the station for questioning, as they would ordinarily do had he been a well-dressed white guy, instead of a well-dressed black guy.
NYPD Chief Bill Bratton has apologized to Blake for the outrageous incident, as has Mayor Bill DeBlasio. At least Frascatore, who was particularly brutal on the video that captured the assault, has been pulled off the street and put on “administrative duties” by the chief, who said he was “disturbed” by the video. But Bratton insists that Blake is wrong to think that what happened to him had anything to do with his race, despite the fact that his assailants were all white. And there's the matter of Frascatore's four partners, who apparently have not been disciplined at all, though clearly they should have stopped Frascatone's unprovoked assault on Blake and instead did nothing. Why aren't they being pulled off duty, too?
Bratton certainly realizes the role of racism in this incident and that his assertion that race wasn’t involved is laughable. He also knows full well that Frascatore, the cop who tackled Blake instead of just identifying himself as a cop and asking politely for Blake’s identification, has a four-year history of complaints about abusive behavior -- behavior that has led to two lawsuits, and for which neither the Frascatone nor Bratton has ever apologized. Want to guess the race of the victims of that abuse?
How many white bankers or stockbrokers get thrown to the ground and cuffed when they are busted for their crimes? Was Bernie Madoff tackled and pushed face down on the sidewalk while he was cuffed? Think about it -- have you ever seen a well-heeled white guy of Blake’s stature and appearance get treated that way when police need to question, or even arrest him? Even mobster John Gotti, known as the Dapper Don, wasn't tackled like that when he was busted!
It just doesn’t happen. In fact, well-heeled white guys, if they’re cuffed at all during an arrest, generally don’t even have their hands cuffed behind their backs, where they become vulnerable to falls. While police always claim that painful and dangerous procedure is “regulation procedure,” the tonier white suspects always seem to get to keep their hands cuffed in front of them, where they can discretely drape a jacket over them to hide the embarrassing-looking cuffs from any lurking paparazzi camera.
Images of NYPD thug undercover cop attacking tennis star James Blake without warning, throwing him to the ground and cuffing him