Was Football Player Arrest A Racial Profiling Case?


The arrest by a white police officer of a black Baltimore Ravens player at a downtown restaurant last weekend is being called by some a case of racial profiling comparable to the Cambridge, Ma., arrest of black scholar Henry Louis Gates in his own home, says Baltimore Sun crime blogger Peter Hermann. After getting a report of a patron’s possibly possessing a gun, Sgt. Joseph Donato approached player Tony Fein partly because it seemed unusual for Fein to be wearing a hooded sweat shirt on a hot day.

The incident led to a confrontation and an arrest charging the player with pushing the police officer. Fein, it turns out, was armed only with a cell phone. Hermann says the sergeant had probable cause to stop and frisk Fein, based on a tip from a security guard (who is, like Fein, African American). The sweat shirt is an added clue for the sergeant but not the reason he is confronting the player. When a gun is involved, police act first and ask questions later. They want the element of surprise and don’t want the suspect to have a chance to go for the weapon. Says Hermann: “In Fein’s mind, he was being jacked up for no reason, he was angry and he felt he deserved an explanation before he consented to anything, an explanation the officer was not yet prepared to give.”

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