Wizards guard Bradley Beal is a star at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., but away from it he has had to go through frightening interactions with law enforcement like countless other black people in the United States.
At the “Together We Stand” march — hosted by the Wizards and the WNBA defending champion Washington Mystics on Friday — Beal recounted some of those experiences to a group of reporters outside the arena.
“I’ve been pulled over with four hoopers in the car before and we’ve all been taken out and searched because we were black riding in a white neighborhood. I went to an all-white school in high school,” Beal said.
He added: “It happened here, two years ago. I got pulled over on 495 and the officer asked me to step out of the vehicle. I’m literally on the side of the highway … my wife, me and one of my friends, sitting in the median of the highway, on the side, and he comes up to me and says, ‘What if I f— up your Monday and put you on a headline and arrest you right now?’ I didn’t do anything.
“But because I was an athlete, a black athlete driving a nice vehicle, that’s what he came up with. How am I supposed to respond to that? I would just be waking up on Monday morning with an ESPN headline: ‘Bradley Beal arrested because of interaction with police.’ But it happens. It doesn’t just happen to me. It’s everywhere. We just have to stop being ignorant to that fact that it exists.”
Both Beal and his Wizards teammate John Wall also participated in the Juneteenth peaceful protest that marched from Capital One Arena to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
They walked through the streets chanting “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace, no racist police.”
The march comes in the wake of recent killings of black people including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
Wall also joined two-time NBA All-Star Caron Butler on the NBA’s Twitter page Friday for a live discussion on confronting systemic racism and police brutality, where Wall expressed the need to bring people together while coping with the trauma of everything that is happening.
“I’m doing the best I can. As a father with two boys, these killings hit a little different because sometimes I wonder if I can make it back home to be around my kids if something ever happened,” Wall told Butler. “Or if they’re growing up, what type of environment or troubles they might have to deal with, so that’s the most important thing for me. It’s just not something that I want right now. You get more angry and it hurts a lot more right now because you see what these other families are going through.”
Wall recalled a moment when Washington, D.C., police pulled him over following a Wizards practice. Citing an issue with his turn signal, the police asked him to remove his window tint right on the spot. He was just blocks from his home, but officers removed him from his vehicle. The situation was eventually resolved without violence once bystanders began to notice who he was.
“I’m scared to get pulled over,” Wall told Butler. “I’ve seen some people on Twitter when I said that say, ‘Well, what are you scared to get pulled over for, they might want an autograph?’ I said, ‘No, it don’t work like that. I’m still a black athlete in America in this world and I know how it’s going.’
“If I have to get pulled over, I’m going to a gas station or I’m going somewhere where there’s a lot of people and a lot of lights are at. And I’m scared to get pulled over on the highway. You don’t want it to get dark at night and pulled over on the highway because you never know what can happen.”