Rockets forward Thabo Sefolosha is among the athletes speaking out against police brutality and racism in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, which occurred five years after the NBA veteran's own experience with excessive force.
During an interview with CNN, Sefolosha, a native of Switzerland, described being attacked by New York City police officers when they arrested him in 2015 and how "he could see himself" in Floyd–a 46-year-old black man who was killed in Minneapolis last week after being violently apprehended by police.
"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."
Sefolosha opened up to CNN about his own interaction with the police.
On April 8, 2015, Pacers forward Chris Copeland and two women were stabbed outside a New York City nightclub. Sefolosha and his then-Hawks teammate Pero Antic were also at the club but not involved in the stabbing incident. However, they were arrested that night after officers claimed they were interfering with the crime scene. Sefolosha said he complied but was taken to the ground when arrested. During the incident, he suffered a broken leg and torn ligaments, causing him to miss the rest of the regular season and postseason.
A jury found Sefolosha not guilty on three misdemeanor charges, and he settled a lawsuit with 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 of the 2015 incident. "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.'"
Sefolosha is among a long list of athletes who have spoken out on the killing of Floyd. Four Minneapolis police officers were fired last week after a video showed one of them kneeling on the neck of Floyd, despite his cries that he could not breathe.
Last Friday, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was seen on video kneeling on Floyd's neck, was fired and then arrested on charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. On Wednesday afternoon, the murder charge against Chauvin was also elevated to second-degree murder.
It was also announced Wednesday that former officers Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng are facing charges of aiding and abetting murder.
Sefolosha described his emotional reaction to watching the Floyd video.
"Anger," he told CNN. "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."