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New Footage from Sterling Brown Arrest: Thank Goodness for Body Cams

Additional details emerge in this bigger-than-basketball story, and none of them make it any better.

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2017 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The January arrest of Sterling Brown was already a frustrating example of some of America’s harsh realities, particularly for citizens who are not white. With the release of photos and additional video from body cam footage from the Milwaukee Police Department, the story that was already pretty bad got even worse.

To clarify, this is new footage made available to the public just now, in June. The original release of footage from the incident, made public by the city, happened in May, for an event that took place in January. Perhaps this is a part of Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales’ efforts to increase transparency in the department, where previously these videos may have never seen the light of day. No matter the motivation (or execution), thank goodness for body cams.

Many aspects of this story are, in a word, infuriating. There are a few things that stand out as particularly appalling. I was shocked by the fact that the officer saw fit to step on Brown’s ankle while he was already restrained and prone, and disgusted by the stark differences between the written report and the video evidence. Again, thank goodness for body cams.

Video shows how officers continued to surround Brown after he was on the ground handcuffed.

”You’re stepping on my ankle, for what?” Brown is heard saying.

”So you don’t kick us,” an officer responds.

”I ain’t got no reason to kick y’all, man,” Brown replied.

It seems cruel to make any mention of a “silver lining,” but given how interactions can often go with law enforcement, it’s a wonder that Brown could walk away from the situation without a lingering physical injury. Recall that, back in 2015, Thabo Sefolosha was accosted by police investigating an incident in New York involving Chris Copeland (remember him?), and ended up with a broken leg and torn ligaments in his ankle. Obviously the “worst case scenario” in these instances is far worse; the harsh truth is that Brown might not have walked away at all had any of the on-scene officers exercised even less discretion. One more time: Thank goodness for body cams.

But worst of all? The absolute worst part of this story is that the main reason that it has gotten any attention beyond the local community is that Sterling Brown plays for the Milwaukee Bucks.

It’s then when officers appeared to realized who Brown was. Asked if he played for the Bucks, Brown responded: “What you think? I look familiar, don’t I?”

It’s easy to lose perspective when following professional sports and the athletes who play them. After all, athletes are adults being paid small fortunes to compete for our entertainment. But that is not all that they are, and it’s imperative that we avoid letting our consideration end at a player’s jersey number or three-point percentage or contract structure.

The case of Sterling Brown is not an incident where an NBA player was wrongfully harmed by law enforcement. It is an incident where a person was wrongfully harmed by law enforcement. Brown has a platform to raise awareness and the resources to seek justice, and that’s a good thing. But at this point, let’s be honest: what good is awareness if there is no action to follow it?