Saturday, December 16, 2017
Sports

This police video unified us

This not your typical basketball story.

It is not about NBA superstars like LeBron James or Steph Curry, although Shaq is a key role player and turns our story into a tall — a very tall — tale.

This is a story about a man who on video appears to be a very bad basketball player, but is something far more important — a really good cop.

The man is Officer Bobby White of the Gainesville Police Department, and he is the focal point of a police video that went viral for all the right reasons.

Unlike so many others involving law enforcement, this viral video shows smiling faces, lasting lessons and bouncing balls.

The only shooting being done is by Bobby and a bunch of kids playing a game of pickup hoops in the street.

And the only police brutality we see is when the kids lower the height-adjustable rim so Bobby can throw down a power slam.

"I'm really having a hard time understanding why this video has gotten so big; it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me," Bobby told me Wednesday. "What I did is nothing extraordinary or innovative. It was ordinary, everyday police work that's happening all over the world."

Except we so seldom get to hear it or see it amid the daily barrage of political partisanship and racial rancor that litter our Facebook feeds and Twitter timelines. Sometimes we forget that police officers are not only out there protecting us from the bad guys; they are a bunch of good guys in the community, as well.

Maybe that's why Bobby White has struck such a chord with so many Americans; because he made us remember how it used to be when policemen were beloved instead of belittled. He took us back to those bygone days when kids trusted cops and cops trusted kids; when American author Tom Clark once wrote, "I'm convinced that every boy, in his heart, would rather steal second base than an automobile."

Bobby became a social-media sensation several days ago when he responded to a noise complaint that a group of kids were playing basketball "too loudly" on the street of an inner-city Gainesville neighborhood. Instead of being the overbearing, tough-guy cop that you expect to see in one of those viral videos, White becomes the greatest ambassador for law enforcement since Sheriff Andy Taylor.

In the video, which was recorded from the dash cam on his police cruiser, he ends up befriending the boys and playing pick-up basketball with them.

"It's disappointing, but there are just some people who don't like the beautiful sound of kids having fun," White said of the original noise complaint. "To me, I love seeing kids outside having fun and not inside all day watching TV and playing video games or out there committing crimes.

"I wanted to let these kids know that, regardless of the complaint, that being out there playing basketball was absolutely okay and they didn't have to worry about the police shutting them down."

In fact, before White left that day he told the kids he would return soon with some "backup" and "we'll get a little game going."

Thanks to our Orlando neighbor — the great and powerful Shaq — this is when the story got even more national recognition.

Shaq, who has always been enamored with law enforcement and even said once he wanted to be an FBI agent, was so inspired by the original video, he contacted the Gainesville Police and said he wanted to be part of Bobby White's "backup."

A few days later, Bobby pulled into the neighborhood and told the kids he was ready for another game and that, yes, he had brought his backup. This is when the towering, 7-foot-1 Shaq opened the door and got out of his SUV.

The rest of the afternoon, Shaq, a bunch of cops and a bunch of kids played basketball. And before he left, Shaq gave each of the kids $100 apiece for making a free throw.

Bobby White gave them something much more valuable.

He gave them a racial profile they will never forget:

A white cop and black kids becoming allies instead of enemies.

— Orlando Sentinel (TNS)

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