Atlanta Hawks wing Thabo Sefolosha officially ended speculation Monday and announced his intention to file civil suit against the city of New York, its police department, and the officers who broke his leg in the April 8 incident that ended his 2014-15 NBA season. Sefolosha announced that plan in an interview with ESPN's Hannah Storm, confirming a Wednesday report that he would file the $50-million suit. NBPA executive director had previously said that the union would support Sefolosha if he chose to pursue a lawsuit.
ESPN.com has several quotes from Sefolosha and more background information:
In an interview Monday with ESPN's Hannah Storm, Sefolosha said he hasn't fully healed from the injuries, which also included severe ligament damage.
Sefolosha said he elected to file suit both for himself and to embolden others who might have gone through similar situations to stand up.
"There's a lot of unknown about how this will affect me two years from now, five years from now, 10 years from now," Sefolosha said. "Also because I think it's the right approach to put lights in a situation like this and to ... fight back in a legal way and in a way that can empower, hopefully, more people."
Sefolosha had previously filed a notice of claim to preserve his option to file a lawsuit. On Wednesday, sources confirmed to ESPN a New York Post report that the amount of the claim is $50 million, the maximum Sefolosha could see in any potential verdict.
Sefolosha was found not guilty on October 9 of three misdemeanor charges stemming from the incident. He had rejected a conditional dismissal in September in the interest of clearing his name fully. Police claimed that Sefolosha had not left a crime scene involving the unrelated stabbing of NBA forward Chris Copeland and antagonized officers, but he and his lawyers argued that police had profiled Sefolosha as "a black man in a hoodie." The jury deliberated for just 90 minutes before reaching a verdict.
As our Kelly Dwyer noted last week, the 31-year-old Sefolosha has received roughly $26.3 million in salary in his NBA career and does not stand to lose $50 million in earning potential due to the actions of the NYPD. But the value of the claim is less about his own needs than the payment required to turn the lawsuit into an effective deterrent. Legal expert Michael McCann also makes the point that Sefolosha does not have to prove only that his professional career was harmed, particularly in a high-profile case that can involve public shaming and embarrassment.
Sefolosha will be back in New York Thursday when the Hawks take on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden in a nationally televised game.
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