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Your Money Can’t Silence Me

Jul 2 2020
Photo by
Nick Monroe/Milwaukee Bucks
Photo by
Nick Monroe/Milwaukee Bucks
Sterling Brown
Milwaukee Bucks
Jul 2 2020

The city of Milwaukee wanted to give me $400,000 to be quiet after cops kneeled on my neck, stood on my ankle, and tased me in a parking lot. 

But here’s the thing: I can’t be quiet.

I rejected the offer because I have a responsibility to be a voice and help change the narrative for my people. In order to do so I have to tell my story, so dialogue and conversations about police brutality can help influence and change a corrupt system. It goes deeper than me just illegally parking. 

A lot deeper.

So here’s my story. 

On January 26, 2018, I was on my way home from a friend’s place when I ran into Walgreens for three minutes. When I did, I parked across two handicapped spots. I could have parked in one spot but it was late at night and the parking lot was empty. I figured, I’m just running inside. What’s the worst that could happen?

When I came out and headed back to my car, a police officer was approaching at the same time and I didn’t see him at first. He asked me if I had a driver’s license. 

As I tried to open the door he shoved me back and I moved his hand off me. At that point I knew things might escalate and it wouldn’t just be a simple ticket.

After the initial standoff, the officer said, “I own this.” He must’ve thought that was gonna intimidate me. I said, “You don’t own me.” Then after a few words back and forth he called for backup and six more squad cars pulled up.

While he was calling them, I was standing there thinking, What are we doing? Give me a ticket so I can be on my way. 

Milwaukee Police Department/AP ImagesThen all of these officers arrive. Some of them surrounded me and a few of the others started looking inside of my car. After 20 minutes of standing outside in the rain and cold, one of them told me to take my hands out of my pocket after having them in there for 20 minutes. Somehow the officers must have felt “threatened” because next thing I knew they started punching, kneeing, and trying to get me to the ground.

That was when my whole mindset changed. I knew I had a choice: Get free or give in.

One of the officers had a knee on my neck. Another stood on my ankle. The cop who tased me had initially pulled his gun. 

The whole time I was on the ground, I was just wondering how we had gotten to that point. All I was focused on was getting back to my family and my job. I thought about fighting back, but it was just an unnecessary attempt for them to show power. I could have gotten them off of me, but it was six guns to none. I had no protection and they had the protection of the badge.

I could hear a few of the officers making jokes about the Bucks. In the body cam videos that were later released, one officer jokes about how it will blow up in the media because I’m an NBA player and how they’ll be accused of being racist. 

Eventually they put me in the back of the cop car and took me to the police station, where I was thrown in a cell for a few hours. For what? Because I was a Black man with a nice car in the hood. But while I was in there I had time to think and reflect. I had time to turn my anger into fuel.

The whole time I was on the ground, I was just wondering how we had gotten to that point.

This happens every single day to Black people all across America. Even in the short time while I was in custody, another Black man came in, his eye bleeding, telling everyone he was in there for a traffic stop. 

When I was finally released the next morning, I went right to shootaround. We had a game that night, and I decided that the best thing I could do was to win.

Some of you may already be familiar with my story. It happened 2½ years ago, but it wasn’t until the body cam footage came out that people started to believe me. Aside from a few people who were on the fence, most people assumed I was just another Black man who got aggressive with the police. 

But once the video came out, people started to speak up in support of me. With the video it was impossible to deny that the police were in the wrong.

But how many times does something like this happen when there isn’t a camera recording? How many times does it happen to someone who isn’t an NBA player and who doesn’t have the platform I have to make people stop and listen? 

Without the video of George Floyd, I guarantee the majority of the world would not have noticed or cared. They would have said, “Oh, it’s just another Black man in the neighborhood who made a fraudulent transaction who resisted arrest so he got what he deserved.” But when you see the video, when you see the lack of sympathy from the officer leaning on George Floyd’s neck as he begs for his mother and for air, then you can’t deny who is wrong. 

Without the video no one would have believed me. Without the video of George Floyd, only the ones who have to deal with the possibility of being stopped and harassed daily would be demanding justice in the streets.

But now we have to take advantage of the momentum and demand respect!


Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Should we rely on videos to hold cops accountable or is there something more that can be done? What if someone isn’t there to film it? What if cops choose not to turn on their body cams? Or what if they turn on their body cams and they still don’t care? The cop who confronted me kept saying, “This is all on camera,” like he was warning me. That tells you how flawed the system is. They still do what they want and fear no repercussions.

That was why I rejected the settlement offer from the city of Milwaukee last year. I want more than just money. I want cops to show respect and to be held accountable when they step out of line, especially in the neighborhoods they are supposed to serve and protect every day. If they kill a man, I want them to receive the same punishment that another guy on the street would.

My dad was a police officer. We didn’t have a smooth relationship partly because of that. But I had respect for him and other men in the neighborhood who were cops because of what they did when they put the uniforms down. They helped out in the communities by running basketball, football, and mentoring programs for the youth. I don’t respect the badge and uniform they wear because of where it stems from, what it stands for, and its abuse of power.

Should we rely on videos to hold cops accountable or is there something more that can be done? What if someone isn’t there to film it?

My case came during a time I was putting together a foundation to help black and brown communities change our narrative and make advancements through, education and sports. The Brown Brothers S.A.L.U.T.E Foundation is short for Sacrifice, Ambition, Loyalty, Unremitting, Truth, and Educate. We have had a number of events to help feed, educate, clothe folks and to restore hope in our communities. We’re just getting started.

The current movement has confirmed for me how important it is that we stand for something. If we in the Black community want change, we have to go make it. And it’s gonna have to come from every level. The ground workers in the neighborhood every day, politicians, businessmen, entertainers, and us athletes. We’re not just fighting for equality and justice, we’re fighting for our LIVES. We’re fighting so we don’t have to move with fear in a country we built. It’s crazy, but we’re fighting for what we already own. Our LIVES! Our FREEDOM!

What I’m fighting for is bigger than me. What our fight for is bigger than us individually. Our fight for justice, equality, equity and respect will be heard and will be met. Our fight for our lives and freedom will no longer be up for debate!

We will not be silenced!

Sterling Brown
Milwaukee Bucks