James Blake preps for marathon, discusses police brutality
NEW YORK -- Former tennis pro James Blake is gearing up for his first marathon and said Wednesday it's going to be a long race, like the fight against police brutality.
Blake, famous on the court for his quick, high-intensity playing style, said endurance is new territory for him.
"Before I started training I'd never run more than five miles," he said with a chuckle.
However, he said, the mentality he developed during his tennis career, of dealing with the ups and downs of a long match, will serve him well on the race path.
Blake grew serious as questions at a press event for the TCS New York City Marathon turned from his patience in athletics to patience in dealing with police matters.
Last month, he was standing in front of a Manhattan hotel when a New York Police Department officer grabbed his arm and tackled him to the ground in an arrest caught on surveillance video. Police said Blake, who was ranked as high as No. 4 in the world before retiring after the 2013 U.S. Open, had been mistakenly identified as a suspect in a cellphone fraud scheme. The mayor and police commissioner have apologized to Blake, and the city's police watchdog agency has substantiated the excessive-force complaint Blake filed.
"I'm satisfied they're listening to me," Blake said. "I'm happy we're in the process, and I'll be happier next year when there's less than 4,000 of these incidents, of these kinds of complaints lodged."
More recently, Blake said, cellphone video of a sheriff's deputy in Columbia, South Carolina, tossing a disruptive teenage student out of her chair and dragging her across the floor of her classroom horrified him. The deputy has been fired.
Social media has played a role in publicizing instances of excessive force by police across the country, Blake noted. He said video, like that of his arrest and of the incident in South Carolina, helps hold officers accountable when they use excessive force.
"People are becoming more aware of how much it happens," he said. "The fact that it is able to be seen is a good thing."
Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he met with Blake to engage in a conversation about "strengthening the relationship between police and communities across our city" and they would continue to work on reforms.
Blake said he's meeting with de Blasio's staff on Thursday to talk about how to increase accountability in instances of excessive force.
And he said he's looking forward to seeing the lines of police officers along the race route when he joins 50,000 other runners at Sunday's marathon.
He said his wrongful arrest isn't indicative of the police department and "doesn't indicate how proud I am of the NYPD and how thankful I'll be to them on Sunday for all the hard work they're doing."
Blake is running for his foundation, which raises money for early detection cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Copyright 2015 by The Associated Press
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