Trauma lingers for Mavs’ Sterling Brown four years after unlawful arrest


The Dallas Mavericks kicked off the first HUDDLE conversation of the year earlier this week with a special virtual event between Mavs wing Sterling Brown and James Cadogan, the first executive director of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition.

Brown, 26, knows North Texas well as he is a former SMU basketball star and has become a staple in the program over his four-year career. He joined the Mavericks this summer after spending the previous four years in Milwaukee and Houston. He is also a member of the recently formed Social Justice Coalition, led by Cadogan.

The timing of The HUDDLE conversation between Brown and Cadogan is significant because it began nearly four years ago when Brown was illegally arrested in Milwaukee and became the latest victim of police brutality.

In the early morning hours of January 26, 2018, the high-profile incident happened when Brown was knocked to the ground and tasered by officers over a parking spot. The story gained international attention due to the excessive force used against Brown.

Brown, who said he feared for his life, eventually filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Milwaukee and its police department and eventually walked away with a settlement.

However, it is important to note that the trial lasted almost four years and the trauma still lingers for Brown. He said it would always be there, but he wants to get something positive out of the situation. He believes that goodness still exists in the world.

“Growing up, I saw a lot of people in the community getting involved and having a positive impact — like running camps and doing different things for the kids,” Brown said. “That’s really where my passion comes from.

“When my incident in Milwaukee happened, there were really two ways I could do it. I could just let it die and get my name out of the media, or I could sue it and try to make something positive out of it. So that’s what I decided to do. I decided to pursue the case, and four years later, we came out on top.

Current Mavs head coach Jason Kidd was Brown’s head coach in Milwaukee at the start of the 2017-18 season. So this connection with his former coach and his return to Dallas allowed a bit of his past to blend into his future.

The conversation between Brown and Cadogan was both transparent and vulnerable. They discussed a wide range of topics regarding the Milwaukee incident and how to build positive relationships going forward.

Brown said education and understanding of citizens’ rights is key.

“Mostly handling my case in Milwaukee,” Brown said. “I had to educate myself. I had to find out about the system (and) how it is set up in the city of Milwaukee.

“Different cities have different ways of getting things done. They have different levels to pass laws or to have things amended.

Later, Brown and Cadogan discussed more proactive steps to close the gap. The entire interview is worth listening to.


Cadogan opened The HUDDLE, noting that Brown is “one of my 15 bosses” on the Social Justice Coalition’s board of directors.

The National Basketball Social Justice Coalition was formed after an unarmed black man – Jacob Blake – was shot seven times in the back by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin on August 23, 2020. Brown and other NBA players have seriously considered ending the seasoning prematurely. Instead, they worked with landlords to use bullrings as polling places, and they also offered strong pressure for police reform.

Blake’s shooting happened precisely 90 days after the murder of George Floyd, and Brown, along with his Bucks teammates, staged a walkout ahead of Game 5 against the Orlando Magic in the NBA bubble.

Other teams like the Dallas Mavericks soon joined. Brown first read the team’s statement explaining why they chose to protest in the wake of Blake’s shooting.

“It was incredibly important to support each other, support my teammates, and even stand up for something bigger than ourselves,” Brown told in a story earlier this year. “We warned the world.

“We turned a lot of heads and made a lot of noise. We tried to do what we could to make a difference and help someone – help a family get justice, and dissect the whole situation until it was right. It was extremely important for us to do it this way.

Later, the Mavs boycotted Game 6 of their first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Clippers. Back in Dallas, the organization promised seven days of The Mavs take ACTION! to address racial injustices nationwide and to bring attention to, lead change, and invest in organizations addressing racial disparity and inequality in North Texas.

The HUDDLE series grew out of this as a vehicle to openly discuss racial and systemic inequalities in disadvantaged communities.

Ultimately, American Airlines Center became one of 23 NBA arenas used as places where people could go to vote in the 2020 presidential election.

Last April, the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition announced Cadogan as its first executive director.

Cadogan is responsible for developing public education platforms and initiatives, identifying opportunities for policy reform, and implementing practical advocacy efforts.

“I know people are passionate about social justice,” Cadogan told Brown at the start of The Huddle. “And (a lot of) people want to make their voices heard, but you did and you do.

“I think your perspective is going to help not just Mavs fans, but people across the country, learn how they can follow the same learning path.”

Brown has since used her personal incident to empower people of color in the fight against the racism and injustices that continue in pockets of communities across the country. He explained how communities and NBA teams can take action now.

One of his suggestions was to use the game of basketball to leverage a bond between city leaders, police and the community. The idea is similar to the Mavs’ partnership with the Police Athletic League (PAL).

The Mavericks teamed up with PAL for the fifth consecutive time earlier this year. The goal of the event is to build bridges between children and law enforcement officials through the love of basketball. The focus is on developing leadership and building self-esteem, using sport to create common interests.

So (we’re) just trying to close the gap,” Brown said. “But really, you have to go back and see what you can do to help your community. There are different organizations that are already doing things in the community. They are already linked and live it day by day. So they have a better direction for you.

“When it comes to closing the gap, it’s tough. It’s not something that can be done overnight. In my case, it took almost four years to resolve. It’s something we’re in for the long haul. So we have to keep pushing towards that.

And Brown, who turns 27 on February 10, is ready to do just that. HWe are preparing to build on everything he has learned from the past and create a better future for others, one step at a time.

“IIt was a long trip, it was a long fight (in Milwaukee), but we stayed strong,” Brown said. “I didn’t give in to the pressure of the dollar amounts they tried to throw around.

“That’s what it will take to keep people committed. My lawyer and his team committed to it and carried it out with me.


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