Former US No1 James Blake 'slammed to ground' by police in mistaken detention

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The former US No1 tennis player James Blake was wrestled to the ground and handcuffed in New York as he was preparing to attend the US Open on Wednesday.

Blake, who is African-American, was detained by five white plainclothes police officers as he stood outside a Manhattan hotel. They had mistaken him for a suspect in an identity theft case.

The 35-year-old said he had been talking to a tennis writer when he noticed someone moving towards him. “Maybe I’m naïve, 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 told the New York Daily News.

Blake was instead thrown to the ground by the plainclothes officer, who told him to roll on to his front. The former world No4 suffered a cut and bruising in the incident. After Blake had been handcuffed for 15 minutes, one of the officer’s four colleagues realized they had got the wrong person and he was released. The officer who had thrown Blake to the ground did not apologize.

The former US Open quarter-finalist said he was unsure if his arrest was down to racial profiling but believed the use of force was not needed. “I don’t know if it’s as simple as [racial profiling]. To me it’s as simple as unnecessary police force, no matter what my race is. In my mind there’s probably a race factor involved, but no matter what there’s no reason for anybody to do that to anybody.

“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 appropriate]. It’s blatantly unnecessary. You would think at some point they would get the memo that this isn’t OK, but it seems that there’s no stopping it.”

Blake, who has a British mother and American father, retired from tennis after the 2013 US Open. He won 10 titles in his career and finished fourth in the men’s singles at the 2008 Olympics.

“Today James Blake was detained by police in midtown Manhattan in regards to an ongoing investigation into fraudulently purchased cell phones, after being misidentified by a cooperating witness,” the NYPD said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon. “Once Blake was properly identified and found to have no connection to the investigation, he was released from police custody immediately. In regards to the alleged improper use of force, the Police Commissioner directed the internal affairs bureau to investigate.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Guardian sport, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 9th September 2015 21.58 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010