Atlanta Hawks player Thabo Sefolosha filed a civil lawsuit against five NYPD officers and the City of New York Tuesday after his leg was broken by police in April 2015.
Sefolosha was in Manhattan nightclub 1Oak with a teammate after playing the Brooklyn Nets when the venue was evacuated due to a stabbing outside.
While he was walking away, NYPD Officer John Paul Giacona began "harassing" Sefolosha, according to the lawsuit, while directing him away from the nightclub.
Sefolosha called Giancona a "midget" — Sefolosha is 6'6"; Giacona is 5'6" — after which Giacona and four other nearby NYPD officers swarmed around Sefolosha and used "excessive and unnecessary force," according to the lawsuit. The NBA player's leg was broken when an NYPD officer struck him with a baton.
Sefolosha was arrested and charged with three misdemeanors: resisting arrest, disorderly conduct, and obstructing governmental administration. Sefolosha declined to accept a deal from prosecutors, and was acquitted of all charges in October 2015 after 45 minutes of jury deliberation.
Sefolosha said in the suit he was targeted "at least in part, because of plaintiff's race, as being a large black man wearing a hoodie."
Sefolosha missed the rest of the 2014-2015 NBA season and the Hawks' subsequent playoff run. "His basketball career has been jeopardized, his reputation and image have been damaged; images of the plaintiff in handcuffs appeared and still appear on the internet on a worldwide basis," the suit said.
"Plaintiff believes he has lost endorsements; plaintiff's basketball career has been shortened and his value as a player has been adversely affected since plaintiff is now 'damaged goods' in the sports world."
Sefolosha did not specify a monetary amount for damages. His attorney, Alex Spiro, had no comment on the lawsuit.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Law Department of the City of New York said, "All the allegations in the complaint will be reviewed once we are served."
Read the full lawsuit below:
Lindsey Adler is a sports reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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