Atlanta Hawks wingman Thabo Sefolosha made news on April 18 when he was arrested along with his teammate Pero Antic at 1 Oak, a nightclub in New York, and charged with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and obstruction of governmental administration.
From afar, it’s a wild story: Milwaukee Bucks forward Chris Copeland was there separately that night, and got stabbed shortly as the club let out around 4:00 a.m. It sparked a series events that ended with Sefolosha getting arrested, breaking his leg, and missing the playoffs altogether. The first-seed Atlanta Hawks, without Sefolosha, went on to get swept in the Eastern Conference finals by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
On Oct. 9, Sefolosha was exonerated of all three charges by a jury in New York. A week ago, he sued the NYPD for $50 million. We didn’t know a whole lot else about the incident until today, when our friends over at GQ dropped a piece in which Sefolosha explains in his own words what transpired over the last six months.
We’ll pick up with Sefolosha’s account just after Copeland was stabbed, the club was closed down, and the street was flooded with clubbers and cops alike:
An officer came over to me and said, “Get the hell out!” I said, “Did I do something wrong? You can talk to me in a nicer way.” I didn’t quite understand why he had to come at us so hard when there were so many other people around. We moved, but he kept telling us to get the hell out. I told him we were listening to him: “You are the police, but you don’t have to act like you’re the toughest guy on earth.” He said, “With or without a badge, I can fuck you up.” Like, whatever. We’re not about to find out. I’m the last guy who gets physical with anybody, especially the police. At the same time, I felt singled out for no reason. He was much shorter than me. [Sefolosha is six feet seven.] I said, “You’re a midget, and you’re mad.” I voiced my opinion, but I kept moving.
The thing that stands out here is how the officer threatened Sefolosha once the player didn’t take to being barked at. They traded barbs, and Sefolosha claims he got in one last burn before moving along. That’s when a half-dozen cops surrounded Sefolosha, told him to leave the scene, and, as he explains it, started goading him in an effort to garner a reaction.
Just as he was getting into a cab, a cop ordered him out. At the same time, a homeless man asked Sefolosha for money. Sefolosha claims he was about to hand over $20 when a cop told him he was going to jail. Antic tried to defuse the situation, and the cop turned and pushed Antic, who fell. This brings us to video of Sefolosha’s arrest, acquired by TMZ:
You can see Sefolosha getting jostled roughly by an entire pack of cops, and at one point, a cop appears to hit Sefolosha with a night stick. Here’s Sefolosha explaining the moment he broke his leg:
Somebody kicked my leg, more than once, from the back to force me to the ground. I knew something had happened as soon as they did it; I’m an athlete, so I know how my body should feel. They were stepping on my foot, too, I guess to try to keep me there. I didn’t feel like there was anything I could do to calm it down. I tried to show them I was cooperating. I tried.
Once he got to the police station, Sefolosha’s leg and foot started swelling to the point he couldn’t put weight on it anymore. He was in jail for about 12 hours, had his bail hearing, and was released the following afternoon. That night, the Hawks played the Brooklyn Nets, whose doctors told him his leg was broken and he had torn ligaments. He was done for the season.
Antic’s charges were dismissed when the pair returned to New York in September. Sefolosha was offered a day of community service, with the charges dismissed after six months. He said no, and went to trial this month.
At Sefolosha’s trial, the five officers testified that he had charged them. Sefolosha’s lawyers were able to find video that, when coupled with TMZ’s, proved that testimony to be false. This, Sefolosha concluded, was police brutality.
The whole thing’s worth a read. You can find it here.