Former Penn State All-American shares personal stories on racism while dealing with police
Former Penn State All-American linebacker Brandon Short, a retired NFL veteran, shared his own experiences with racism Monday afternoon in two powerful anecdotes that involved police drawing guns on him.
One officer, Short said, put a gun to his head as a 14-year-old when he was misidentified as a robbery suspect. He cried inside the police car.
These are the kinds of stories every minority has, Short said. But few want to share them. Short said he never told anyone before because he didn’t want to make them uncomfortable. But he feels differently now.
“The time for silence has stopped,” he said. “That time is over.”
Short spoke during a Penn State town hall, as a member of the university’s board of trustees and its chair on the oversight group on racism, bias and community safety. The former linebacker, who earned his MBA from Columbia in 2010, felt awareness of racism was paramount — and so he shared his own stories Monday.
The following is a full transcript of Short’s two anecdotes, published in their entirety for the full and proper context:
First incident: Before I begin, I want you to understand that the vast majority of police officers protect and serve with honor, but what the majority of those good cops are guilty of is turning a blind eye to the police that serve dishonorably.
So I’m 14 years old and it’s a summer afternoon, and I’m walking home from my friend’s house like I did every day that summer. And two police cars pull up and cut me off. And a cop jumps out and says, “Get the f on the ground!” And pulls his gun. And I’m standing there in shock, and the cop walks over to me — because I don’t know what’s happening — he walks over to me, puts a gun to my head and says, “I said, get on the f’ing ground!”
So I get on the ground and put my face in the mud, and they put their knee in my back and handcuff me and throw me in the back of the car. Mind you, I’m 14 years old. There’s mud on my face, there are tears rolling down my eyes, and I have no idea what’s happening. Some time later, the police officer comes back, and he takes the handcuffs off and lets me out of the car and says, “I’m sorry. You fit the description of somebody that was involved in a robbery. Have a nice day.” Have. A. Nice. Day.
He just put a gun to a 14-year-old kid’s head, threw him in the mud and threw him in the back of the car with no recourse.
Second incident: So, circa 2006, we’ll roll forward. It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m living my dream in the NFL as a member of the New York Giants. My wife, then girlfriend, are headed out to a gala. I’m in a tuxedo; she’s in a gown. Earlier that year, my wife had experienced some health issues and I thought I was going to lose her. But she recovered. She was healthy.
So, after this event, we’re walking home and my wife starts to experience some of the symptoms that she had when she was really sick. And I get scared. And I see a New York City police car and it says on the back, “To Protect and Serve.” Now, mind you, I was a New York Giant and lived through 9/11. And I’ve done a lot of work with police: public service announcements, speaking at police events. I still have an NYPD hat on my shelf here and in my house. So I walk up to the police officer and say, “Can you please help me? My wife is sick; I don’t know whether she needs to see a a paramedic. Please help.”
And the cop says, “I’m not your f’ing taxi driver.” I said, “That’s OK; I know you’re not a taxi driver, but my wife, my girlfriend, needs help.” And the cop says something into his walkie talkie, reaches over, puts on his hat and steps out of the car. No less than 20 seconds later, two cops pull up — two cop cars pull up — and they pull their guns on me and my wife. I’m in a tuxedo; she’s in a gown. I’m sitting there wondering, “What in the world just happened?” All I did was just ask for help.
Through the grace of God, we were in front of a shop and a store owner, an Asian man, saw everything that happened. And ... with the cops having their guns on us, he pulled us into his shop and literally protected us from the police. Five minutes later, the cops pull away. And to put this into perspective for you: Five days later, I was the starting outside linebacker for the New York Giants in a playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Moral of story: The moral of the story is it didn’t matter whether I was an inner-city kid in a hoodie walking home, a teenager, or I was a professional football player in a tuxedo. All the cop saw was Black, and all they saw was — their guns were pointed at me.
There’s been a lot of protests around the country. And those protests have been about more than the brutal killings of Black people that we’ve seen on TV. They’ve actually also been about the indignities that Black and Brown people face every day that no one ever hears about, that no one ever talks about. I’ve never said anything to people about this because I didn’t want people to feel uncomfortable. And every minority has 20 stories like this in different circumstances that may not involve the police, but involves so many other aspects of their life.
The time for silence has stopped. That time is over. It’s time to voice what is happening so that people understand that this is real. It’s time for our white students, our Asian students, our Brown students, anyone who understands what’s happening, to air this. So we can all work together to make Penn State a better place.