Thabo Sefolosha Being Found “Not Guilty” Should Not End Discussion

When a person is acquitted, it’s easy to think that a given story is over. The drama has run its course. The matter has been solved.

This is anything but the case for Thabo Sefolosha… and for us as well.

Misdemeanor obstructing government administration, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest were the charges Thabo Sefolosha faced. However, he has been acquitted of those charges, which stemmed from an incident outside a New York nightclub in April. In a struggle with police, Sefolosha broke his leg. Afterwards, as details started to leak, a discussion outside of Sefolosha’s apparent “wrongdoings” began to develop. Rightfully so.

Even with some form of justice dropping on Friday, that doesn’t mean the discussion should stop.

Thabo Sefolosha, a wealthy man by most any standards, seems to have been a victim of a crime. Except police didn’t see it that way. Rather, they saw Sefolosha as a criminal. His charges and proof of guilt? Being a person of color outside a nightclub while a volatile series of events was unfolding close enough to him that they considered him a perp.

Oddly enough, although it is not that odd given our country’s history, one must consider this: As Sefolosha’s attorney took to the press to talk about the form of justice being done and hinting at the possibility of his client going on the offensive in regards to his alleged mistreatment by the police, assistant district attorney Francesca Bartolomey’s summation stayed with me, and it should with you as well.

Per an ESPN news report: “The police don’t get to tell the defendant how to play basketball,” an assistant district attorney, Francesca Bartolomey, said in her summation. “The defendant doesn’t get to say where the crime scene ends.”

The above quote is the tried-and-true approach by those in a legal office to ignore aspects that might be detrimental to their case — unfortunately, this path is pursued even if it is something that won’t help them come closer to the truth, which could lead to actual justice, which should be the goal of their jobs.

A defendant is afforded the right to offer multiple opposing theories to court cases, and can say whatever the hell s/he wants. It is up to a jury — if that’s the route applicable to the proceedings — to determine if those theories fit.

Also, fans get to tell athletes all the time how they “should” play basketball. Take to Twitter for a second and you will surely see someone saying how “Player X” should stop shooting threes or whatever. So, police, can tell “the defendant” how he should play basketball, but just as the jury has to make the decision of whether or not to believe Sefolosha, he has to determine if he wants to listen to the police’s advice in how to guard an athletic small forward.

This continues the real disconnect between people in positions of power and authority with those who are perceived to be without. If we are to be honest with each other, had police on the scene known that Thabo Sefolosha was a well-thought-of millionaire, they would probably handled things differently. Maybe not if they had known he was an NBA player sure, but that’s only because the perception of NBA players are entirely different thing altogether.

As this story continues to develop, and if Sefolosha decides to go after the city which gave him a broken leg for things he had nothing to do with, people will inevitably take sides — as they tend to do. However, unlike many other instances, those who prefer not to give rich black athletes the benefit of the doubt will not be afforded their usual “luxury” of hiding behind the law, or due process, or the idea of either — he has been found not guilty of any wrongdoing.

The discussion can not afford to be strictly one-sided, though. All police are not bad as all athletes are not good, or the reverse. It is nearly always somewhere in the in-between. As preached throughout many of my columns, nuance will be needed. Thought, information, and understanding need to trample — what will be many — people’s efforts to offer their agenda-tilted opinions as quickly as possible.

Friday’s court decision might seem minuscule on the scale of important issues going on with race, law enforcement, and the general respect we seem to lack for one another in the United States. However, if instances like the Thabo Sefolosha story become more and more a thing, tiny advances in justice need to be taken and not ignored.

That seems like a rather silly statement for something that shouldn’t need to be earned. No person, regardless of race, religion, sexual preference, or otherwise, shouldn’t have to earn the right to receive justice only after being wronged.

About Joseph Nardone

Joseph has covered college basketball both (barely) professionally and otherwise for over five years. A Column of Enchantment for Rush The Court on Thursdays and other basketball stuff for The Student Section on other days.