After Milwaukee Bucks center John Henson tried to buy a watch in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, on Monday only to find locked doors and cop cars, he was understandably upset. He’d recently signed a big contract, had a sweet Chevrolet Tahoe as part of a sponsorship with a local car dealership, and was being treated like a criminal, regardless.
Tom Dixon, the owner of Schwanke-Kasten Jewelers (the store that tried to turn Henson away), previously released a statement saying that it was the Tahoe that was the source of suspicion, not Henson. Apparently, a Tahoe matching Henson’s had been stolen recently, and the store had been advised to call the cops if it showed up.
Yet one can’t help shake the feeling that if a white man had stepped out of the truck, the whole incident might never have occurred. “Fitting the description” is one of the most common excuses for racial profiling, and passing such incidents off as misunderstandings obscures what exactly is misunderstood. Henson has the right to not exactly accept Dixon’s explanation at face value.
Thankfully, Dixon had the good sense and manners to apologize to Henson in person at the Bucks’ practice facility on Tuesday. Henson briefly described their meeting to ESPN:
“He knew that shouldn’t have happened,” said Henson. “He’d had some prior incidents, but it still doesn’t make it right for them to do what they did.
“It’s a real issue today, but right now, I want to focus on the game tonight, and there will be time to talk about it later. I am going to do some things to raise awareness of situations like that and go from there.”
To the end of raising awareness, Henson told ESPN he’s been contacted by schools to speak and give counsel on how to react to situations like the one he experienced, and to put a face on the emotional damage racial profiling can inflict. Henson added, “If I can keep this from happening to at least one person, then I felt like I’ve done my job as a player with a platform to say something. That’s all I wanted to do. It was a misunderstanding, but nobody should ever have to deal with something like that.”