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Reds Amir Garrett: ‘I want this world to change so much’

Reds reliever Amir Garrett, center, wears a mask at the first workout of 2020 Summer Camp at Great American Ball Park on Friday, July 3, 2020.
Reds reliever Amir Garrett, center, wears a mask at the first workout of 2020 Summer Camp at Great American Ball Park on Friday, July 3, 2020.

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Reliever opens up about his own experiences with racism

Amir Garrett has used his platform as a Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher to deliver messages about racial inequality issues in recent weeks.

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“On this Independence Day, may we all remember that none of us are truly free until all of us are free,” Garrett wrote Saturday on Twitter.

“Baseball is back,” he wrote a day earlier, “but we still have a big issue going on, but don’t worry I won’t let you forget.”

The 28-year-old Garrett, who's entering his fourth season with the Reds, talked to reporters on Monday via a Zoom call, and while the return of baseball and the 2020 season ahead was touched on, the session gave Garrett a chance to talk about why the Black Lives Matter movement is so important to him and his own experiences with racism.

Garrett was asked, “Do you have any experiences that you feel comfortable sharing with us that illustrate what you’ve gone through?”

Garrett took a long pause before talking for about seven minutes straight about something he experienced in 2010 in Los Angeles when he was still a teenager. Here is his full account of the incident:

“This is a tough one,” Garrett said. “It’s very tough for me. But I feel comfortable sharing with you guys. If I open up and share my experiences, I feel like it can help someone else. I’m in California where I went to school. Me and my friend are driving after school. He’s playing his music loud. We’re going the speed limit. He’s just playing his music loud, trying to look cool. We’re on our way to basketball practice. We got pulled over by the police. They came up behind us. (His friend) says, ‘Amir, just relax. Keep your hands on the dashboard.’

“The cops come up to the car, and they’re like, ‘What are you guys doing?’ Just right away aggressive. I go, ‘Nothing. We’re going to basketball practice.’ They tell me to get out of the car. They tell my friend to get out of the car. They say, ‘Do you have any drugs in the car?’ We say, ‘We don’t have anything. We’re going to basketball practice.’ Just minding our own business. They throw me up against the car. They throw him up against the car. They start patting us down aggressively.

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“As a human being, if you get handled like that, I don’t care what anybody says, if you get handled like that and you’re not doing anything, your reaction is to resist. But I wasn’t resisting too much. I’m just like, ‘What did I do?’ I knew I didn’t do anything. Why am I getting treated like this? He slams me up against the car and he tells me, ‘Give me a reason because I will (mess) you up.’ At that moment, it’s like, ‘Dang, I could be hurt.’ I don’t even know what I was feeling. He asked us again, ‘Do you have any drugs in the car?’ They take everything out of the car. They rip up the car, looking for stuff that we tell them we don’t have.

“They say, ‘OK, you can go, but next time don’t be playing your music so loud or we’re not going to be so nice.’ My friend looks at me, and the first thing he says is, ‘My parents are going to be so mad. Look at my car.’ His car was gutted. Everything out on the side of the road. And they just get in the car and leave. For me, I know there’s good cops out there. I know there’s bad cops. But stuff like that can’t happen. I got lucky. We got lucky. A lot of others didn’t get lucky. A lot of others lost their lives because of stuff like that. Just going through that, that’s why I am the way I am when stuff like this goes on because that could have been me. For no reason. We got pulled over for no reason. they didn’t give us a ticket, nothing. They just wanted to (mess) with us.

“I was scared. My dad taught me at a young age what to do when the police pull you over. How to talk to the police. Be respectful at all times. Where I’m from, it’s so crazy because the police are supposed to protect and serve, and where I’m from, if there’s something happening, we don’t call them. How is that supposed to help anybody?

“I want this world to change so much. When I have kids, I want to talk to my kids about other things. If you’re outside and you see a snake or a lizard, stay away from this. I don’t want to have a talk with my kids and say, ‘Hey, if you get pulled over by the police, they’re not your friends.’ I want my kids to feel the police are there to protect and serve, and if you call them, you should feel safe.”