Youngfella… I need you to follow the rules… I need you to study hard… I need you to be respectful… I need you to play hard… I need you to respect authority figures like coaches, teachers and police… But, truth be told that might not be enough…
I remember it like it was yesterday… John Hardett brought a kid to my office and asked if I could help him with an algebra class. The kid was quiet, unassuming and unfailingly respectful. His name was Devonte Newbill. Right away, he said “call me D Jay.” Hardnett, the most respected basketball mentor in Philadelphia over the past 15-20 years, brought Newbill over 3-4 times a week for the next 2 months.
D Jay would arrive and I would immediately place a dry erase marker in his hand, stand him front of a white board and make him work through problem after problem after problem after problem… His improvement was dramatic, his confidence soared and he began to view himself as college bound.
Even though Newbill had spent his 9th and 10th grade season as a deep reserve, Hardnett insisted he would be the best player in Philadelphia over the next 2 years. At the time, it was clear that he believed in Newbill’s abilities more than Newbill himself.
For the first year I knew him, I never saw him play basketball. I knew him as a young man from a tight-knit family in North Central Philadelphia. I knew him as a kid that was dependable, hard working and humble. I didn’t know if basketball would get him there, but I wanted to see Newbill go to college. Toward that end, I instructed him to always take pictures of his class roster, report cards, state assessment results, etc. and text them to me. I promised I would make sure he remained on track be NCAA eligible.
The most important thing he could do, I explained, was to control the way the principal, counselors and teachers perceived him. Specifically, I said “When I ask people how you are doing, a big smile should come across their face.” When I visited Strawberry Mansion High School a few weeks later, the principal told me that “D Jay won’t let me carry anything, bags, books, equipment. He’s the only student I’ve had that insists on carrying things for the female staff members.”
Newbill gets it. He was and remains atypical. Before he was the man at Penn State, He was the man at Strawberry Mansion High School. He was the leading scorer in Philadelphia. He was 1st team All-City. He was 1st team All-State. He was being recruited by colleges like Rutgers, Georgetown, West Virginia, Marquette and Temple. All too often young men develop a sense of entitlement under these circumstances. Not Newbill… But, you already know that.
Yesterday, I published an open thank you letter he wrote to the President, Athletic Director and basketball coach at Penn State University. Within 24 hours, his letter was viewed by over 25,000 people.
Today, he was traveling to France to begin his career as a professional basketball player. During a stopover in Germany, Newbill was racially profiled and arrested on suspicion of being a terrorist. This young man has NEVER been arrested or detained by police in the United States of America. This young man has just completed his requirements for a Bachelors Degree from Penn State University. This young man has represented his family, his North Philly community and Penn State University with class and dignity.
Unfortunately, the German customs official ONLY cared that Newbill is Black.
Below, please find a Facebook post by Francois Lamy, a French agent working with Newbill’s Agency, ASM Sports. The post was originally written in French.
Immigration, ordinary everyday racism, and other joys of our daily lives, as sensitive as either the subject, this is the day to tackle it. Today a basketball player that I placed in France to the Asvel, DJ Newbill, in my opinion a player and a guy who is exceptional, was arrested by German immigration officials. The official reason, absence of a visa for long stay. It is important to note that visas for sports professionals are regularized once on the territory. Therefore the situation is a little farcical in addition to be unpublished.
A basketball player coming from American to play in Europe is stopped at the German border, questioned, and then released after payment of a fine, but retained in the transit area waiting for deportation to the USA. I have never such an incident my long career. It must be specified that Newbill is an American citizen. Just as a French citizen in the USA, does not need a visa for return on the French territory and can stay there 3 months, Newbill can stay in France fro 3 months, but must regularize his situation in case of prolonged stay or to work.
This young man is African American, and has never been out of the United States before. This is the first experience that he has with Europe. An officer of the German immigration, doubted his statement that he was in Europe to play basketball. He also doubted that France was the country of final destination. Newbill was interrogated for hours. German immigration official were convinced he had a terrorist motive.
I challenge anyone to dare to tell me that this is a coincidence. I have also had the pleasure of having this official on the phone. I told him it was normal. I asked him to try to understand because it was the first time in almost 20 years that this kind of concern is presented.
He then increase the tone, until I will do the same, and he proposed to remind the US Consulate in Frankfurt for they come in person attend their national.
All this to say that ca inspires me a few thoughts more broad:
Our good populist policies which are having a hayday on immigration issues forget well voluntarily to educate us on the reality of immigration procedures everywhere in the world: They are strict, complex, cold, without past-right nor states of soul. And they of course have good reason to be, are we not ourselves selective before inviting someone in our respective homes? But they are also implemented on the ground by human beings, and therefore can sometimes be subjectively applied.
Why specifically that player here, while several hundreds of players pass through European countries before coming play in France by regularizing their visa once in the territory? Ask the question is to answer it.
If there is a despicable ideology that we must fight, it is that one race is superior to another. Once again, it is all the racist or the oppressed of someone, ca is not the prerogative of a color. But the whiff post slavery or colonialists are unbearable and the nest of a lot of latent conflicts and misunderstandings remaining. This Mr. Faber, chief of the police station of Terminal 1 of Frankfurt, is going to bite the fingers very long to be allowed to go to its primary instincts. I made a promise to the player, and have already asked the US Consulate in Frankfurt to escalate to the German state that one of their employees has behaved with a baseness unworthy, what they have assured make tomorrow. These people forget that they are public servants in the service of the State of course, but with the missions of service and order able.
Francois Lamy, French Sports Agent
Chief Faber racially profiled D Jay Newbill. Newbill was just trying to make his way to his first job as a Penn State graduate. Degree in hand, a first Division French team has signed him and agreed to compensate him handsomely. Once they get to know him, I’m sure they will come to love him. But right now, he’s just a Black man in a German airport.
That, unfortunately, is enough to lead to arrest. He’s not affiliated with any terrorist organizations. He’s never been in any kind of legal trouble. He’s a god fearing Christian. He’s great friend. He’s a great teammate. He’s a loving brother and caring grandson. He’s a solid citizen. But, none of that matters.
He’s a Black man in a German airport. That fact alone resulted in an arrest and detention on suspicion of being a terrorist.
Unfortunately, race matters.