A police officer in Cincinnati watched a large black man get into his car and turn on the engine after being told it was illegally parked.
The officer thought the man was trying to avoid a parking ticket and told him to stop. So the man — Matthias Askew, at the time an NFL player — stopped his Cadillac Escalade, got out and was arrested in a scuffle with several officers. Police used a stun gun on Askew four times, alleging he resisted arrest.
A judge rejected the police account and cleared Askew of all charges.
“They tased him simply because he was a big black man, not because he did anything to make them fear for their safety,” Askew’s former attorney, Ken Lawson, told USA TODAY Sports about the 2006 incident.
For many black players in the NFL, it’s a familiar scene. Of 687 NFL player arrests since January 2000, Askew’s was one of 294 that came in a traffic stop, according to a USA TODAY Sports investigation. In a league in which 66% of the players are black and 31% are white, black players were arrested nearly 10 times as often as white players (260 to 28), accounting for 88% of those NFL traffic-stop arrests.
That percentage is consistent with the overall NFL arrest numbers: Of the 687 total player arrests in the USA TODAY Sports database that spans 14 seasons, 607 involved black players — 88%, a disproportionate rate sociologists attribute to several social factors in the black population at large, including a disproportionate rate of poverty and single-parent backgrounds. Those factors also include profiling, civil rights experts and NFL players say.
This trend is also reflected outside the lines as well…
The overall numbers on traffic stops continue to show differences along racial lines: A study released this year by the Justice Department showed a higher percentage of black drivers (13%) than white drivers (10%) reported their most recent contact with police came from being pulled over in a traffic stop. In a similar survey released in 2011, a greater percentage of black drivers (4.7%) than white drivers (2.4%) were arrested during a traffic stop.
The challenge with racial profiling is that whites and blacks generally perceive the issue much differently because white people have not experienced it, said Cyrus Mehri, a Washington, D.C., attorney who has studied racial stereotypes and worked on big race and gender cases.
“It’s very, very painful to the African-American community, and the white community is not fully sensitized to how big of an issue this is,” Mehri said. “The best thing we can do as a country is to talk about it and deal with it than to sweep it under the rug.”
So much for “post race” America…SMH
Police advocates argue that profiling is not the reason players get stopped and arrested. Rich Roberts, a spokesman for the International Union of Police Associations, says when police decide to pull over a motorist they often can’t see the skin color of the vehicle’s occupants. He also says the decision to make a stop comes down to a simple question that does not involve race: Did the driver violate traffic laws or give police a probable cause to stop the car?
“Racial profiling is bad police work,” Roberts said. “Situational profiling is good police work.”
Yeah, that SOUNDS good Rich, but we all know damn well that cops can use any number of things (type of car, type of music coming from the car, big rims, etc) to determine whether or not they think the driver of a vehicle is of color.
Image via WENN