In the hours after NBA players went on strike to protest police shootings of Black people, former Portland Trail Blazer Maurice Harkless shared on Twitter a story of being racially profiled by a police officer on his way to a playoff game.
Harkless, a small forward now playing for the New York Knicks, posted after the Blazers announced they were joining other NBA players in a strike to protest of the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
“Figured the times were appropriate for a quick story,” Harkless wrote to lead off his post.
Figured the times were appropriate for a quick story pic.twitter.com/WhMVdoQnBU
— Maurice Harkless (@moe_harkless) August 26, 2020
He described a drive to Moda Center for a playoff game, with his little brother and nephew in the car. They were about to get onto the highway, Harkless recalled, when an officer pulled him over.
Instead of telling Harkless why he was stopped, he asked if the car was his and demanded his identification. Upon discovery of Harkless’ identify—a famous athlete—the officer completely changed his behavior and even wished him luck, Harkless said.
"I feel for my brothers and sisters who aren't as lucky to show an ID and have an officer's whole viewpoint of you change in an instant," Harkless wrote. "So when players boycott, that's who they're doing it for."
WW reported this morning on 2020 statistics showing that Portland police continue to disproportionately stop Black drivers and pedestrians.
Harkless did not specify which police department the officer was from. But for most of his four years on the Blazers, records show Harkless resided in West Linn, a city about 10 miles south of Portland.
His story suggests he wasn't far from his house when he was pulled over—he had not yet gotten on the highway, he notes.
The West Linn Police Department has a prominent history of misconduct and racial discrimination. The role of a West Linn police sergeant in the traffic stop and wrongful arrest of a Black man sent the suburban town into upheaval when The Oregonian revealed it earlier this year.
A West Linn Police Department spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
Here is Harkless's full account:
During my time playing in Portland, one day I get in my car with my little brother and nephew (14 and 13 at the time) excited for them to walk in with me for the first time during a playoff game. We get in the car and make our way towards the highway, before we even make it on, literally right when I'm about to make the turn, sirens.
I'm calm because I know I didn't do anything wrong.
So [I] tell the boys just stay calm, I got it, pull over and grab my license and registration early, turn my radio down and roll down all my windows because in my head him seeing the two young boys with me may make him give me the benefit of the doubt (when you look like us try anything to make sure you're safe)
"Is this your car?"
"Who's car is this?!"
"Mine, officer…why did you pull me over?"
"License and registration and insurance now."
"Why'd you pull me over tho?"
He walks away…
Less than two mins later he comes back…attitude completely shifted.
"Oh hey Moe I'm sorry to bother you, there's been some suspicious activity in the neighborhood, and I saw you coming down that hill a little fast, good luck tonight go get 'em."
….see why we can't "just play?"
Because even when we do, we're still looked at as less when we step off that court, we're still targeted by officers when we step foot off that court. Luckily I'm a fortunate man who has to deal with less of this in his life, but I feel for my brothers and sisters who aren't as lucky to show an ID and have an officers whole viewpoint of you change in an instant. So when players boycott that's who they're doing it for, and if you're not on this side frankly we don't want to hear you. It's not an issue of race or skin color, it's right and wrong, selfishness and empathy.
Enough is enough.