Today, Marcus Smart is an NBA player who’s enjoying all the benefits that come with fame and success. But it wasn’t long ago that he was the target of racial profiling from police.
The Boston Celtics guard told a story he endured when he was a rookie and how Black people are often treated unfairly by law enforcement.
“I’m driving to the Garden, I’m getting ready, and of course I’m speeding because I’m late,” Smart said to NBC Sports Boston. “I think I’m a rookie at this time, I’m pretty sure because I have to be there early so I’m rushing. A cop pulls me over, you know, understandably. The officer, he walks up to the car.”
He continued: “I tell the cop my registration’s in my glove department, do you mind if I reach for it? I grab it, and he’s kind of looking at me up and down, like analyzing me. He looks at my license and registration and he goes, ‘Is this your car?’ When you have my registration and it says my name on it. So, ‘Yes sir, it is my car.’ And he’s looking at me, he said ‘Wow’ … ‘You speak nice, you speak very well. You dress well, so you’re not a rapper.’ I’m just like, ‘What?’
The officer went on to further racially stereotype Smart, who believes his career may have spared him from a more violent encounter.
Smart continued recounting the story: “‘So you must be some type of athlete, which athlete are you?’ I’m just like, ‘Excuse me?’ ‘I play for the Boston Celtics.’ And when I told him that, it changed. He says ‘Oh wow, my family are big Celtics fans.’ And it’s just like, what if I wasn’t an athlete? Would you still feel the same way you’re feeling now? Because before I told you who I was and what I did, it was a whole different story. And that’s terrifying.”
Smart also said that his mother, like many other parents in the Black community, taught him rules for how to act when pulled over by police. Those include: Hands at 10 and 2, let the officer know if you’re reaching for anything, and don’t wear a hooded sweatshirt.
“A lot of African Americans and minorities aren’t blessed to be somebody of status, and it hurts because they will be treated unfairly,” he said. “We’re humans, and you should treat us like humans. That’s the problem, you know, being a Black man in this country. And one day having to tell my kids this is how things go, and this is how you have to think and look.”
Listen to Marcus Smart’s full story below.