"You go into a Tiffany's in the mall," says Jackson, "and right away you notice the lights [brighten]. Then the clerk follows you around, pretending she's just cleaning up. I came out of a restaurant once and the valet goes, 'Man, what did you do to get a car like this?' I was like, 'I got a job, that's what I did!' "
The dreadlocked Williams says that when he flies first class, more times than not attendants ask to see his ticket, assuming he's in the wrong seat. Houston Rockets forward Glen Rice wasn't allowed to check into a five-star hotel by a woman behind the desk who insisted, "I know what you're about."
"What am I about?" asked Rice, who refused to leave until he was given a room. The desk clerk called police, who recognized Rice and advised the woman to give him a room. That's when Rice said no thanks and walked out.
Says Jackson, "I don't think most of white America understands how it feels. You work hard to be successful, to get some nice things, and people treat you like you stole them."
"I guess cops think we're drug dealers," says Latrell Sprewell, the New York Knicks guard. "It pisses you off, but what pisses you off more is that when they see who you are, they suddenly change it to, 'Uh, I pulled you over to, uh, can I have your autograph?' "
When you mix cops with young men who feel persecuted, things can get volatile. "I feel myself boiling over," says Jackson. "But if I started yelling at the cops, next thing you know, I'd be in jail." Or worse. Remember the four young unarmed black men on their way to a basketball tryout who were profiled by troopers and stopped on the New Jersey Turnpike, then had 11 shots fired into their van, wounding three of them?
Williams was so frustrated by his treatment after one DWB stop that he started to walk home in protest, got a block and a half, then sat down on a curb and cried. "It hurts your feelings," he says. "Nobody likes to be treated like a criminal."
And we wonder why so many black athletes are angry.