Former tennis pro James Blake says the first person he called after being thrown to the ground and handcuffed by New York City police officers Wednesday in a case of mistaken identity was his wife, and she is the reason he is speaking publicly about the incident.
“She said, ‘What if this happened to me?’ Blake said today on “Good Morning America” of his wife, Emily. “Immediately, I was furious because I thought about what I would be thinking if someone did that to my wife, if someone tackled her in broad daylight, paraded her around in a busy, crowded sidewalk in New York City with handcuffs with her cuffed behind her back, and taking away her dignity.
“I couldn’t accept that,” Blake said.
The former tennis professional, 35, was standing outside midtown Manhattan’s Grand Hyatt New York while waiting to be driven to the U.S. Open for a promotional appearance around noon Wednesday, when he looked up from his phone and saw someone in shorts and a T-shirt charging at him.
“He picked me up and body slammed me and put me on the ground and told me to turn over and shut my mouth and put the cuffs on me,” Blake said of the plainclothes NYPD officer. “The first words out of my mouth were, ‘I’m going to 100 percent cooperate. I don’t want any incident or whatever,’ just out of reaction from what I’ve seen in the media.”
“At no time did he let me know he was a police officer. He just put the cuffs on me and said, ‘Stand up,’” Blake said on “GMA.” “I asked what was going on and he said, ‘We’ll tell you soon.’”
Blake said he was detained by a group of around five police officers for a total 15 minutes and suffered “a couple of bumps and bruises.” The former No. 4 in the world tennis player had to tell police officers to check his back pocket, which has holding his U.S. Open credential.
“I said, ‘Look, officer, I’m scared so if I say something wrong I’m sorry, but I just want to know what’s going on. I think you have the wrong person,’” Blake recalled. “I had my credential for the U.S. Open in my back pocket and [I said], ‘Please check that. You can tell I’m a former player. It’s a final eight badge. It means I did pretty well at the U.S. Open. I’d like to clear my name.’”
The NYPD confirmed the incident to ABC News, writing in a statement Wednesday that Blake was mistakenly detained “in regards to an ongoing investigation into fraudulently purchased cell phones, after being misidentified by a cooperating witness.”
The NYPD said today that after an internal review of surveillance video, one police officer has been placed on “modified assignment” and that “the investigation is ongoing.”
Blake, a Harvard grad who had already announced plans to run the New York City marathon this fall for charity, says he has not heard from anyone at the police department since the incident.
“I’d be surprised if they were making that concerted of an effort since I’ve been contacted by a lot of media sources who have been able to find my number and I haven’t heard anything from the police,” Blake said. “I’d like an apology. I’d like an explanation for how they conducted themselves because I think we all need to be held accountable for our actions, and police as well.”
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton said at a news conference in New York City today that he has tried unsuccessfully to reach Blake on his cellphone and that he does not believe race was a factor in the incident.
“I have concerns about the takedown,” Bratton said today. “I don’t believe at all race was involved.”
Blake, who is bi-racial, says he does not believe his mistaken arrest was a case of racial profiling, but called it a “blatant” case of excessive use of force.
“I probably wouldn’t even be so clear or be so indignant about it if it wasn’t so obvious,” he said. “I was standing there doing nothing, not running, not resisting, in fact, smiling.”
“I do think most cops are doing a great job keeping us safe but when you police with reckless abandon, you need to be held accountable,” Blake added. “I think I’m going to hopefully let people know that some of them need to be held accountable and these that are doing police work the wrong way need to pay for those actions and be shown either the door or whatever they need to do to punish them.”