Retired tennis star James Blake got the opposite of a warm welcome from the New York City Police Department on Wednesday. Just hours after he arrived in town to take in the U.S. Open, Blake said five plainclothes officers tackled him to the ground outside his midtown hotel thinking he was a suspect in an identity theft case.
It was the police, however, who misidentified Blake, once the fourth-best player in the world, for a criminal.
“It was definitely scary and definitely crazy,” Blake told the New York Daily News on Wednesday. “Maybe I’m naive, 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, 35, wasn’t seriously injured in the incident, but the run-in left him with bruises on his left leg and a cut on his elbow.
Blake wasn’t sure he wanted to make the incident public, but after thinking about it, he decided it was his duty to speak up about what he referred to as the prevalence of “unnecessary police force” in the United States today.
“I have resources to get to the bottom of this. I have a voice,” Blake told the Daily News. “But what about someone who doesn’t have those resources and doesn’t have a voice? The real problem is that I was tackled for no reason and that happens to a lot of people who don’t have a media outlet to voice that to.”
“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, who is African-American, said there was “probably” a racial component to the treatment he received from what the New York Daily News reported was five white officers, but added, “I don’t know if it’s as simple as that.”
Blake, who spends much of his time now raising money for charity, is seeking an apology from the police force for his treatment.
The NYPD isn’t ready to offer that at this time, however. Instead, the police released a statement (via ABC News reporter Aaron Katersky and ESPN’s Darren Rovell) noting the incident has been referred to internal affairs for further investigation.
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) September 9, 2015
The court of public opinion, however, came fast and heavy, with most firmly in Blake’s corner.
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) September 9, 2015
James Blake's response to this is so generous. This is infuriating: http://t.co/ItDUnb9K0Y
— mangesh hattikudur (@mhattikudur) September 9, 2015
— ProgressiveArchitect (@PrgrsvArchitect) September 9, 2015
This post has been updated to include the statement from the NYPD.
Update, 1:30 a.m.: According to NBC 4 New York, which cited the police, one of the officers involved in the incident with Blake has been placed on what was termed as “modified assignment.”