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NBA player Thabo Sefolosha, a victim of police brutality himself, opens up about George Floyd's death

Houston Rockets guard/forward Thabo Sefolosha, a victim of police brutality himself, opens up about George Floyd's death.

Posted: Jun 4, 2020 5:11 PM
Updated: Jun 4, 2020 5:11 PM

Thabo Sefolosha knows far too well about police brutality against black people.

Because, in 2015, it happened to him, when he suffered injuries by New York City police and was wrongly arrested.

Sefolosha, 36, is a 14-year NBA veteran from Switzerland who spent this season playing for the Houston Rockets before the Covid-19 pandemic put the season on hold. On Wednesday in Atlanta, he told CNN that he could see himself in George Floyd, who was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis.

"I think every black man in America, in my opinion, from the 14 years I've lived here, can feel that way," Sefolosha said. "It's that ultimate bullying. ... I think it's just an abuse of power that you've seen in preschool, middle school bullying, and it's at such a high level that the people have to be fed up and something has to be done about it."

In the early hours of April 8, 2015, Sefolosha, then with the Atlanta Hawks, and then-teammate, center Pero Antic, from Macedonia, were arrested near the scene of the stabbing of then-Indiana Pacers forward Chris Copeland and two women outside a New York nightclub.

Police said Sefolosha and Antic were not involved in the stabbing incident, but they were charged with misdemeanors, including disorderly conduct and obstructing governmental administration.

Shortly after the incident, TMZ released video that shows a group of police officers arresting the 6-foot-7 Sefolosha and taking him to the ground. It also shows an officer within that group getting out a baton and extending it near him, but what may have caused the injury is not clear in the video. Sefolosha appears to be limping as officers lead him away.

Sefolosha, who suffered a fractured fibula and ligament damage when he was arrested, said after the incident that police caused his injuries. He was forced to miss the rest of the 2015 regular season and the entire postseason.

A New York jury found Sefolosha not guilty on three misdemeanor charges. The charges against Antic, who is white, were dismissed. Sefolosha later settled a lawsuit against five police officers for $4 million.

"Everything happened so fast that at the moment it was just being myself, really, being respectful, and at the same time defending a position that I had the right to defend," Sefolosha said to CNN. "Everything escalated so quickly that it was hard just to -- looking back, just sitting in a cell and saying, 'OK, I didn't do anything wrong.'"

He later went on to say, "Really, it's bullying at a high level. And that frustrates everybody. I think you see it now just with the protest and the level of anger that people have. I think it's just enough is enough."

As for why things escalated in his case on that overnight in New York, Sefolosha said it was because of "poor training."

"Ego gets in the way, you know, and I think that's one of the main problems when you're a police officer," Sefolosha said. "A lot is asked of you as a public servant, as someone who is here to defend the community. And I think it should be taken with pride and with more humanity, as far as you're doing a job here for the people and understanding that everybody's going through a lot.

"But as an officer, you're the one with the training. You are the one who's here, who is supposed to calm the situation down and realize what's going on in a split second, you know? And too often this is not met."

Sefolosha was asked what went through his mind when he saw the video of Floyd.

"Anger," Sefolosha said. "And a sense of just being totally disconnected. How can a human being do that to somebody else and just sit on his neck for nine minutes? Intentionally in broad daylight killing someone like this. And the anger is extended to the other officers that are just around just watching. Like, what is your purpose in life? Why did you decide to become a police officer? Everything is to be put in question at this point. So I can't really blame people that are in the street just angry.

"I just wish the leadership was a little more streamlined and people know exactly what the message, what they're fighting for and what exactly they want after the protest. We can protest for six years. You protest and then something has got to come at the end of it, you know? But what is the message? What is the exact end goal of all of this?"

As for potentially going back to play basketball?

"The main priority should be justice, should be about fighting for sustainable justice," Sefolosha said. "Can we do that while playing basketball? And I mean, obviously, the athletes are not the only ones that need to step up and do things. So, yeah, I think it would be great to have that outlet in times like this for everybody, for the ones that are on the court and the people watching. I think it'd be great for everybody to have (something) positive in times like this.

"But at the same time, I want myself and all the rest of the athletes with a platform, it's time for action. And I want to really stress that I think it's for all of us to take it upon us to be about action right now."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 291222

Reported Deaths: 6577
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto19470226
Hinds18555383
Harrison16385273
Rankin12498260
Jackson12401216
Lee9635160
Madison9353193
Jones7836144
Forrest7055135
Lauderdale6735225
Lowndes5989137
Lamar579379
Lafayette5688113
Washington5124128
Bolivar4567120
Oktibbeha438091
Panola424092
Warren4091113
Pearl River4070127
Pontotoc406066
Marshall397992
Monroe3971125
Union391372
Neshoba3746166
Lincoln343799
Hancock337773
Leflore3346118
Sunflower315785
Tate299172
Pike297792
Scott291367
Alcorn289760
Itawamba288471
Yazoo282662
Tippah275265
Copiah273357
Coahoma272265
Simpson269278
Prentiss267158
Leake250870
Wayne250140
Marion249478
Covington246277
Grenada244576
Adams232374
George229545
Newton222551
Winston220174
Tishomingo210965
Jasper210343
Attala205669
Chickasaw200250
Holmes181470
Clay177348
Stone170729
Tallahatchie169039
Clarke167671
Calhoun155327
Smith151131
Yalobusha141936
Greene126333
Walthall123040
Noxubee122429
Montgomery120537
Perry120133
Lawrence118420
Carroll117123
Amite110632
Webster108629
Jefferson Davis99831
Tunica97923
Claiborne97329
Benton92524
Humphreys91226
Kemper89222
Quitman76614
Franklin75319
Choctaw69316
Wilkinson62226
Jefferson60827
Sharkey48817
Issaquena1676
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 488973

Reported Deaths: 9660
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson703321342
Mobile35725716
Madison32088437
Tuscaloosa23913404
Montgomery22369481
Shelby21714209
Baldwin19554263
Lee14827147
Morgan13529243
Etowah13091309
Calhoun13063281
Marshall11197202
Houston10019255
Limestone9303130
Elmore9283179
Cullman8856176
St. Clair8747214
Lauderdale8541209
DeKalb8419173
Talladega7424161
Walker6466240
Jackson6450101
Autauga614384
Blount6058125
Colbert5973118
Coffee522299
Dale4606106
Russell400530
Franklin396575
Covington3918105
Chilton380096
Escambia375970
Tallapoosa3533138
Clarke342348
Dallas3385139
Chambers3382102
Pike292471
Lawrence280685
Marion277492
Winston244563
Marengo243454
Bibb243259
Geneva238168
Pickens223453
Barbour208450
Hale208064
Fayette198755
Butler194865
Henry181741
Cherokee175737
Monroe165538
Randolph161240
Washington155832
Crenshaw143052
Clay142554
Macon140344
Cleburne136139
Lamar130632
Lowndes130148
Wilcox120525
Bullock116033
Conecuh106423
Perry104927
Sumter98231
Greene86732
Coosa86323
Choctaw54723
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