"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Black Man Out

ESPN writer Howard Bryant was arrested last weekend for allegedly physically assaulting his wife in public. The story was covered on the home page of ESPN.com:

“I am so sad today,” Bryant said [in a statement]. “I am sad today because this attack on me by the Massachusetts State Police and the Buckland Police has made it necessary for me to defend untrue allegations and repair my reputation when one conversation with either Veronique or with me would have diffused the entire situation. Instead, the police chose aggression first over dialogue, threatened to taser me whenever I tried to speak, and all in front of my 6-year-old son.

“As a result, I have to defend a charge that I attacked both the woman I love and the police when nothing could be further from the truth.”

“This is all so unfair,” Veronique Bryant said. “There was no investigation. The police made assumptions about my husband that weren’t true. I was never abused or in fear of Howard on that day or any other day. I wasn’t running from him or trying to get away from him. The police weren’t listening to me and they attacked him with violence with our 6-year-old watching.”

Here is Bryant’s laywer, Buz Eisenberg:

Eisenberg, being interviewed on WHMP’s 9 O’Clock Show with Bill Newman and Monte Belmonte, said Bryant was singled out by witnesses and by police simply because he was black and in Buckland. With Buckland being 96.5 percent white, according to the US Census, Bryant naturally stood out no matter what he did, Eisenberg said.

Even before the police came, Bryant could feel people staring at him on Main Street, Eisenberg said.

Eisenberg did not deny that Bryant and his wife argued on Main Street but he denied that the argument ever became physical. Witnesses told police they saw Bryant put his hands around her neck, which Eisenberg and the Bryants have disputed.

He also disputes charges by the Massachusetts State Police that he resisted arrest.

He said the witnesses, who he said were a group of 14- and 15-year-olds, watching the scene from Buckland Pizza overreacted and called police.

“What they saw was an African-American man and a Caucasian woman. It probably never entered their minds that they were married,” he said.

I got an e-mail from a friend the other day who happens to be black. He wrote:

What gets me is that E#$% chose to list this story on their front page, while others who have worked for them and were accused of or involved with similar issues were buried in the site so you had to do a search for their story. They have so many blatant double standards, it’s a wonder they don’t get kicked in the nuts with big lawsuits on a regular basis or are targeted by rights groups. Even if you don’t like the guy, the way they chose to trumpet this over others who have done similar or worse things is out of line.

In regard to what happened, that’s not surprising. Someone has it in for him; where can a professional brotha go without getting f***** with these days?

I know Howard Bryant, not well, but I consider him a friend professionally. I believe him and stand by him.

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Games We Play  Sports Media

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1 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 3, 2011 10:19 am

Do most people in Massachusetts find this kind of behavior in their law enforcement acceptable? Is this standard policy? I hope this is not considered a rhetorical question, because I really want to know.

When Dr. Henry Louis Gates, a noted Harvard professor and historian who happens to be African American was similarly confronted by the same police force, his outrage was such that the President of the United States (another noted professional of African descent) became personally involved as a mediator; and I recall how it was covered by most media outlets studying their body language rather than the reason for the meeting in the first place.

Massachusetts is not the only state where state law enforcement appears to aggressively single out minorities of all socioeconomic strata (I've had personal conflicts with the New York State Troopers since I was old enough to look like an adult, which was apparently in my early teens), but like New Jersey, that state seems to garner the most attention because of it's apparent racial profiling (lets not forget the fearful witnesses who, like the next door neighbor of Dr. Gates who simply saw a black man breaking into someone's house which turned out to be his own) and aggressiveness. Is this acceptable? Do we chose to live this way because we feel we can do nothing about it? Or do the gentry feel comfortable and pay no mind to what they feel is a necessary application towards living and pursuing the American Dream?

And, like a certain media outlet that shall henceforth remain nameless, do we apply double standards and expect no one to confront us on it? Inquiring minds want to know...

2 Alex Belth   ~  Mar 3, 2011 11:34 am

1) It is sad and enraging that these problems are still cold, hard realities.

3 ric   ~  Mar 3, 2011 11:48 am

you'd like to hope that its not issue with racial profiling... each of these instances were police responding to a call by witnesses alleging illegal activity. maybe bryant didnt chose his woman, but im sure he was giving alot of lip if they arrested him after the wife said there was no issue.

as to the gates thing, he wasnt exactly mr. innocent ... for example, "when asked by Crowley to speak with him outside the residence, Gates replied, 'ya, I'll speak with your mama outside.'" if you talk to police like that, they wont cut you any slack no matter how important and prominent of an academic that you claim to be. its very immature and disrespectful.


4 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 3, 2011 12:16 pm

[3] Perhaps, but what if the police treat you with disrespect first? Are you supposed to accept it? And why assume that Bryant gave the police lip in the first place? I've never heard that assumed in other instances.

5 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 3, 2011 12:29 pm

[4] ...except by the police: "resisting arrest". If a police officer acts aggressively towards you and you defend yourself with your mouth, the question would have to be asked: what were you being arrested for in the first place?

I was treated like this in Harlem one day as I was escorting my girlfriend home; two officers confronted me at a bus stop and asked for my ID and questioned me as to why I was there. I cooperated with them quietly. After that, one officer steps closely and growled, "Remember, we're WATCHING you!" That's when I stepped back (regaining my personal space) and derided him for assuming I was doing anything wrong in the first place; also showing him my ID as a registered security officer and a captain of my security squad. I demanded his badge number and he refused, walking away.

Witnesses, including the bus driver who waited until the confrontation was over, said the officer tried to instigate a confrontation and were surprised I wasn't arrested. I didn't give into his baiting, but I let him have a good piece of my mind; no law against that.

6 ric   ~  Mar 3, 2011 12:35 pm

i assume because police normally do not make an arrest if its a big misunderstanding. too much paper work. and how many 14 year olds do you know that care about anyone enough to call 911? it must have been a heated situation they were witnessing. i just hate it when people demonize police. i know many police officers and the crap/people that they have to deal with is unreal. also, i dont think these two examples are a good example of profiling because both altercations came as a result of 911 calls rather than being random. bryants lawyer is talking out of his ass legally.

7 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 3, 2011 12:46 pm

So are the police. In many instances, complaints about police misconduct have been ignored or unresolved. It's not safe to assume which one is right or wrong in this situation, so let's see how it plays out. But from my personal experience, which includes having law enforcement officers in my family who have also experienced police aggressiveness towards them personally and not based on assumptions, I'm inclined to believe Bryant and his wife. I never thought question police tactics was demonizing them, as I have otherwise had fairly good dealings with law enforcement officers in general, but in particular areas where the instances have been unpleasant for me and more than a few people who report similar instances (and in some cases justified by the local law enforcement) , I tend to assume that there is a problem beyond a misunderstanding.

8 The Hawk   ~  Mar 3, 2011 1:03 pm

Even if someone calls the police, what the cops do when they get there can be a result of bias.

I have to dismiss the old "police have to deal with a lot of crap" argument. How in the world is that germaine? Anyway police do the wrong thing at times, just like anyone else and their job is tough and also important. That's why they should be cut very little slack when it comes to abuses, whatever the circumstances. They have too much power to be allowed to operate with any real wiggle room.

9 The Mick536   ~  Mar 3, 2011 1:19 pm

All your biases are showing through here. No such thing as truth in these cases, unless there is a video, and even then, people will lie, distort, and fantabulize.

The problem with domestic violence cases, expecially ones on the street, is that people see what they want to see and report it to the police who respond and don't want to make a decision that will end their careers, like it did mine, so they don't listen to the alleged aggressor's side of the story before interfering with the person's freedom.

These cases unfold so rapidly that the cops take no chances that they or the alleged other party get injured. Previously, before the policies changed, lots of cops got hurt in these situations. So reason doesn't prevail; no right or wrong; no ethnic or racial bias (although who can tell).

And, the law, for those of you who think it may be relevant to the conversation, is that you cannot resist even an unlawful arrest. Most times these cases will end up with some sort of resolution that protects the cop from a lawsuit and sends the guy to some type of therapy.

Case in point-Patterson's aid.

And, you don't need the testimony of the wife or other party. Lots of wives recant. So they changed the law to allow the testimony of witnesses.

A bad fact, if established here, is the choking. Many Domestic Abuse cases alleged choking. Could be, for the purpose of argument, that he held her, she pulled away while he still had her shirt/jacket/coat and it appeared her throat or neck was impeded. Another bad fact is kids around. Yelling now considered aggravating fact.

But I would rather discuss how Bond's girlfriend will discuss the size of his balls without having to face cross examination on her nude images in Playboy!

10 ric   ~  Mar 3, 2011 1:22 pm

i still dont see the bias here... witnesses say bryant attacked the wife. this wouldnt be the first time the victim of a domestic dispute retracted her statement to the police. i dont know bryant personally so i have no reason to believe him over these "overreacting" witnesses. just another example of someone using "racism" as a smokescreen when bad things happen. for all i know bryant pulled the "do you know who i am" deal with the police and was verbally abusive. celebrities do it all the time.

11 Capital Yank   ~  Mar 3, 2011 1:37 pm

[6] Demonizing either police or regular old citizens, based upon race, is one in the same. Call it stereotyping, profiling, prejudice, racism - whatever. These preconceived biases, whoever they're held against, are at the expense of a true evaluation of a person based on their actual individual characteristics, their traits...their humaness. Just as all police in an area notorious for police misconduct don't deserve to be grouped together under whatever derogatory label (fascist pigs) you assign them, all African American men in an area that is nearly all white don't deserve to be prejudged as wife-beaters simply because they are arguing with a caucasian woman.

None of us actually know what happened between Bryant and his wife, but I'm willing to take Alex vouching for Bryant as a good indicator that Bryant is not the type of man who possesses the individual characteristics of someone who would be inclined to assault his wife. While I may occasionally diverge from some of Mr. Belth's evaluations on movies, tastes in afternoon art, or assertions on the illness of the beat of the day, his writing about experiences with people and evaluation of character have always struck me as considered and perceptive. That there are no reports that Bryant's wife had any physical signs of an altercation and that her story has not wavered regarding the absence of any violence give some credence to Bryant's story. Of course wives sticking by their abusive husbands is not a rare occurrence, but that's another story for another day.

The idea that police would not want to instigate just because they'd have to file paperwork is simply not a relevant issue. If police didn't want to do any work they would just belatedly respond to onerous-sounding 911 calls and show up after the scene was over. And yes police have to deal with tons of crap, but I'm sorry they signed up for the job, it's what they do. That doesn't mean I'm ungrateful for the honorable and selfless acts they perform around the clock, and overwhelmingly without any great fanfare for those good things, but their job is to protect and serve. The majority of the time I'd like to think this is what they do, but other times they clearly step out of line and debauch their important role in society. When this happens they deserve to be called out on it just the same as anyone else. Bryant's lawyer pointing out the circumstances that make police misconduct and the possibility of the vanilla town's discomfort with a mixed race couple isn't him talking out of his ass legally - he's not even saying anything "legally"- it's framing the issue in reality. If the very real presence of continuing racism in our country isn't something we can see or at the very least acknowledge the possibility of, then we're living in fantasy land. And if a 14 or 15 year old kid hasn't reached a point in development where upon seeing an alleged physical assault that kid wouldn't have enough empathy or good sense to call the police then we're living in a place that's worth off than I'd like to believe, and maybe I should move to fantasy land.

Maybe at least there the worldwide leader in sports is a credible source of journalism.

12 Dimelo   ~  Mar 3, 2011 1:47 pm

[10] Doesn't the victim have to press charges?

From my understanding of domestic incident reports, if the person being abused does not want to go forward with pressing any charges then there isn't much the cops can do. Even if there were witnesses, the person that's the victim was not dead, she spoke for herself and there was no incident.

So did the officers overreach their authority in this instance, I really don't know. I wasn't there, however, it does seem fishy that the alleged victim of abuse said there was no abuse and Byrant was still arrested.

[1] With all due respect, I hate the term profiling because if you were a police officer then you would be doing the same. It's how police work is done, sorry, it's the truth. There really is no other way. I have a brother who is a detective, he's Spanish, a lot of the detectives he works with are black, I've asked them plenty of times: do you guys profile? Their answer is a resounding "yes". If they are out buying drugs, do you think they go to a corner where it's a bunch of old folks playing chess or parcheesi? They look for the "ghetto outfit" -- black and baggy jeans, long white tee-shirt.

I think it's important we get past the point of being all incredulous about cops profiling. Just cause Bryant is married to a white woman is not any reason to speculate either, I've seen many a people (myself included) where you mouth off to a cop and you can make a situation they don't understand all too well into an arrest and you feeling violated.

I don't think cops are the most patient of people, but I also think the public doesn't do a good job of accepting responsibility too.

It can't always be the cops fault.

13 Dimelo   ~  Mar 3, 2011 2:01 pm

Wasn't the NPR dude fired because he said, when he sees a person in Muslim garb, on a plane he's traveling in then he thinks they might be a terrorist. We all profile.

It's really how we are wired, when you first meet or see someone, doesn't the brain make a bunch of decisions based on what a person looks like? The brain has a huge database and depending on what facial features a person has, then we make our initial judgments based on that information. Profiling is something we all do, what most of us can't do is stop someone randomly, throw everything out their car to see if they are packing heat or carrying kilos of drugs.

14 Chyll Will   ~  Mar 3, 2011 2:28 pm

[13] Don't look at the word "profile" so much as the act itself. If it's in the course of investigation, then it is necessary and right. If it's in the course of a biased reaction, it's wrong. The prevailing evidence should (ostensibly) prove one way or the other. But you can't, or at least shouldn't, brush aside an accusation of abuse of authority if the claimant can prove it. Also understand that many working and non-working people also don't have the means to carry a legal claim, justified or not, as far as they would mean to; despite the right to legal aid (which at the lower levels of income can more than likely be incompetent, inexperienced, ill-prepared or uninterested). That's part of the process that, unfortunately, also allows many injustices on either side of an issue to go unchecked.

Another issue that is being addressed is fairness and it'll also be up to the judicial system to decide if the police response was fair and justified. Unless either the police officers or Bryant and/or his wife recant their story, the witness testimony should be key overall in the decision.

15 ric   ~  Mar 3, 2011 2:31 pm

"Just as all police in an area notorious for police misconduct don’t deserve to be grouped together under whatever derogatory label (fascist pigs) you assign them, all African American men in an area that is nearly all white don’t deserve to be prejudged as wife-beaters simply because they are arguing with a caucasian woman."

of course not. the police here responded to a call that a man was assaulting a woman. wheres the prejudice? on the 14 year old witnesses?

"Bryant’s lawyer pointing out the circumstances that make police misconduct and the possibility of the vanilla town’s discomfort with a mixed race couple isn’t him talking out of his ass legally"

since when does a US Census statistically show a town's discomfort with a mixed race couple?

believe i hear what youre saying though. i just dont see it by the police here or in the other example that you gave

16 Shaun P.   ~  Mar 3, 2011 2:53 pm

[1] This MA resident doesn't approve. It would not be the first time I've seen questionable behavior by cops somewhere in this state when people of different skin color were involved. I don't know if Bryant's story is true, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was. Racism is alive and well in MA, like everywhere else. Anyone who tells you otherwise is naive, or lying.

My own experienes witnessing it don't exactly follow what Bryant's lawyer described. I've seen racist behavior - by cops and/or private citizens - in MA towns that had little or no diversity, and in towns where the population is incredibly diverse. Its sad.

17 Capital Yank   ~  Mar 3, 2011 4:11 pm

[15] The prejudice could certainly lie with those who called police. Of course there could be no prejudice at all. I'm not claiming that just because the town is mostly white it mean that a person calling the police when they see what they believe to be is a crime means demonstrates the town's prejudice.

But when the story goes that this is a mixed race couple having a conflict in public and the couple's story is that they were only arguing, the 911 call reported Bryant was choking his wife, Bryant ended up being arrested even though there are no reports of injury or physical harm, and the wife immediately denied any use of force, then the fact of the town being so homogeneous becomes relevant (not to mention the history of these kinds of things in MA).

Those details are by no means certain of anything, but Bryant's lawyer was doing what any competent lawyer would do by pointing out the context. And I should have qualified that BOTH police misconduct and a town's discomfort are possibilities from the context - police misconduct here isn't certain simply because of the race disparity in the town. But if an area is 96.5 percent the same race of anything in the US census and someone of a different race being arrested for what they claim was merely an argument with someone of that other race doesn’t indicate something looking, smelling or sounding like race discomfort then I don’t know what would.

18 RIYank   ~  Mar 3, 2011 4:29 pm

[12] No, there's no law saying that the victim has to press charges, even in domestic abuse. In practice there will hardly ever be charges without the complaining witness, but that's because it's rare for there to be other significant witnesses.

I agree, by the way, that we don't know what happened and it's hard to come down on one side or the other. But it really galls me when people automatically believe the police account (as in that idiotic Gates police report). In court police testimony is treated as accurate by default, but there's no reason on earth that we should do that.

19 The Hawk   ~  Mar 3, 2011 8:54 pm

"They look for the “ghetto outfit” — black and baggy jeans, long white tee-shirt."

I agree some profiling is probably necessary ... That right there isn't really racial profiling anyway, not purely at least.

20 The Hawk   ~  Mar 3, 2011 8:59 pm

"In court police testimony is treated as accurate by default, but there’s no reason on earth that we should do that."

Here here

And again, bias can be shown by the police behavior when they come up on the scene and size things up. Is this one of those laws where someone HAS to be arrested? Even if so, their treatment of the suspect sounds like it may betray some bias as well.

All based on what I've read of course.

21 OldYanksFan   ~  Mar 3, 2011 10:00 pm

[13] I agree that profiling is somewhat natural.
However, that does not excuse harrassment.
If may be that Blacks get questioned much more frquently then Whites. However, if that questioning is "Excuse me Sir, can I have a word with you?"... well, things could be worse. It is quite another thing to assume guilt before innocence.

I fully believe that hatred and prejudice are alive and thriving in America. As a political wonk, you can not watch the insanity of the political environment today (Huckabee just YESTERDAY gave a long rap on how Obama was suspect because he was raised in KENYA), without believing that hatred of Blacks, and therefore hatred of Obama, is a large part of the equation.

In the most recent poll, 51% (FIFTY ONE PERCENT) of polled Republicans believed Obama was not born is the USA. I would re-write that to 10% believe he was not born in American, and 41% just don't like or trust Black people.

As far as the cops, these folk are highly trained and supposed to DISFFUSE potentially violent situations. One would think that 2 trained professionals who are WEARING GUNS, could deal with one man and one woman without things geting nasty,

Chyll... your inquiring mind doesn't know that this country is still rife with bigots???

22 Boatzilla   ~  Mar 4, 2011 2:24 am

The whole thing stinks on ice. I hate to hear these kinds of stories.

I have experienced racial profiling as a white foreigner living in Japan. Getting stopped for ID. Getting stopped for riding a bicycle (to see if I had stolen it). Then being harassed by a good cop-bad copy duo. I used my business card from a well respected Japanese company as a get-out-of-jail free card. You will hear a similar story from almost every foreigner living in Japan for a few years.

But the Iranians and Africans here have it worse. The whole country hates the Koreans, and the Chinese mobs take care of their own.

23 The Hawk   ~  Mar 4, 2011 7:42 am

[22] Yeah that's the thing too. As with many things, as awful as it can be in the US, it's probably as good as it gets on this planet. I remember my old Swiss friend telling me how terribly racist it is there. I think most countries it's so entrenched there's really no debate. All though we **** up here at least we have that.

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