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New York police union's comparing arrested NFL player to 'wild animal' draws condemnation

One racial justice organization called the statement "egregious" and "an overtly racist smear." A representative for the player, Trevor Bates, said he is undergoing a mental health evaluation.
Detroit Lions linebacker Trevor Bates in Detroit, Michigan, on Aug. 30, 2018.
Detroit Lions linebacker Trevor Bates in Detroit, Michigan, on Aug. 30, 2018.Jorge Lemus / NurPhoto via Getty Images

A New York City police union has drawn criticism from some racial justice advocates after it compared a black NFL player's behavior during an arrest to that of "a wild animal."

Detroit Lions linebacker Trevor Bates, 25, was arrested Saturday after allegedly refusing to pay a $32 cab fare. During his arrest, he punched a NYPD sergeant in the face, according to the Queen's County District Attorney's Office.

Prosecutors said Sgt. James O’Brien was punched as he was attempting to calm Bates following his refusal to be fingerprinted. The officer was treated for a concussion and a cut above his left eye.

Police tased Bates in order to subdue him, according to prosecutors.

The Sergeants Benevolent Association, a police union, released a statement on Twitter on Saturday, saying "Trevor Bates acted beyond that of a wild animal."

"He refused to be fingerprinted, showed disdain for the officers & decided to punch a Sgt in the face. Fighting with officers he was tasered & ripped the taser prongs from his body. He’s dog crap and the NFL condones criminals," the tweet said.

NBC News reached out to the union on Monday but did not immediately receive a response.

A tweet from the Sergeants Benevolent Association after NFL player Trevor Bates was arrested in New York.
A tweet from the Sergeants Benevolent Association after NFL player Trevor Bates was arrested in New York.Sergeants Benevolent Association via Twitter

Scott Roberts, senior campaign director at racial justice organization Color Of Change, said in a statement to NBC News Monday that the police union has "put their prejudice on full display."

"This egregious statement is far from a dog whistle, it’s an overtly racist smear," Roberts said. "This is yet another example of prejudicial, offensive conduct from officers associated with NYPD SBA."

Color Of Change said it's requesting a formal apology from the Sergeants Benevolent Association.

Some Twitter users called the organization's tweet "racist" and "unprofessional," while others said they wanted to hear Bates' side of the story.

"People quick to judge and say racist things that's uncalled 4 and u people are not no better than him he made a mistake we all make mistakes so stop wth the name calling and Grow up," one user wrote.

A representative for Bates told NBC News in a statement Monday that the 25-year-old linebacker was taken to a hospital, "where he remains as he undergoes testing and a mental health evaluation."

His family has "expressed deep concern that his behavior this weekend is not at all consistent with the man and friend we know him to be," according to Bates' agent.

"We take this situation very seriously and express concern for Sergeant O’Brien and the members of the New York City Police Department," the statement said. "At this time our priority is to ensure that Trevor receives the help he needs and that the privacy of the parties involved be respected until more information becomes available.”

The Detroit Lions released a statement and said they are "aware of the arrest."

"We have not spoken to Trevor as of yet and are still in the process of gathering more information," the team said. "The Detroit Lions will have no further comment at this time.”

Bates is expected to be charged with second-degree assault, obstructing governmental administration, theft of services and resisting arrest, according to the district attorney. If convicted, he could be sentenced for up to seven years in prison. No hearing has yet been scheduled.