Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Blake encouraged by protests, charges against officers

James Blake beat his childhood idol, John McEnroe, to win
the 2014 Champions Shootout in Sacramento, Calif. Both
players grew up in the New York area. Photo by Paul Bauman
   James Blake said he's been on "a pretty big roller coaster of emotions" since George Floyd's death.
   "That night, I went to bed so discouraged, just thinking how sad it was," the former world No. 4 said on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" on June 10. "But (then) I was so encouraged by the fact that people cared. People in this country have not become totally desensitized. They haven't become numb to this. The protests happened so quickly, so genuinely, and they got results. I don't know if those four officers would have been charged if it wasn't for the protests."
   Blake, who's half African American, endured a frightening incident with the police in 2015 in New York. Retired by then, he was waiting outside his hotel for a ride to the U.S. Open to make some corporate appearances when a plainclothes New York City Police officer ran up, slammed him against a wall, threw him to the ground and handcuffed him. After 10 or 15 minutes, Blake was released.
   "They said I looked like a suspect," recalled the 40-year-old Blake, who won the doubles title in the 2004 SAP Open in San Jose, Calif., on the ATP Tour and the singles crown in the 2012 Sacramento (Calif.) Challenger. "Turns out the suspect was for a credit card scam, nothing violent. No reason, in my opinion, to tackle someone."
   Blake, who turned pro after two years at Harvard, sued but withdrew his claim, saying he wasn't looking for financial compensation "on the condition that the city establish a legal fellowship to investigate police misconduct and advocate for victims of brutality."
   "In terms of trying to get justice, I tried so hard," Blake, who's now the Miami Open tournament director, told Fallon. "This is why I'm so encouraged by today's events. I screamed and yelled for two years to get an internal trial against this police officer. All he lost was five vacation days, and it was his fifth incident. The other four were against African American men, one when he broke the guy's jaw, and they said he couldn't be fired. That's what needs to be changed, and that's why I'm so encouraged by the fact that more and more people are realizing that this (lack of) accountability is a joke."

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