Tennis great James Blake has accepted his role as an accidental activist. A hometown audience of 500 came to Fairfield University on Monday evening to hear him talk about police misconduct.
In 2015 a police officer tackled Blake to the ground, and handcuffed him for 40 minutes on a New York City sidewalk. It was a case of mistaken identity. It put Blake, a professional athlete, into the ranks of people who have been treated with excessive force by the police.
“Most people that this happens to go right about their day and don’t have a lot of people who are willing to listen to them and hear them out on what should have been done correctly in these situations.”
But Blake has a voice, and he has started to use it to call for law enforcement to better address police misconduct. Blake wants to emphasize he is not anti-police.
“The police that do the job the right way are some of the few people in this country who deserve the moniker ‘heroes.’ I never thought it was appropriate for athletes, but it is appropriate for people who put their life on the lines to actually protect and serve.”
But, Blake says, training needs to improve and cops who give their profession a bad name need to be disciplined, not protected.
“The good cops need to stand together to…hold the ones accountable who are using the badge as a shield, shielding them from any sort of accountability.”
His own case is still not settled a year and a half after the incident, and the policeman involved actually got a raise. Blake is now writing a book about the incident and how other professional athletes can and should make a difference.