MILAN, Italy — American basketball player Mike James says he was racially profiled by Milan police who pointed guns at him and two friends after being stopped on the street — a claim that police deny.
James, an African-American who plays for Olimpia Milano, tweeted Saturday, “Me and my friends Just profiled by the police smh it happens even in Europe.”
James added, “Police stopped me and my two friends in the midst of 50 people walking. Got out they car with guns in hand talking about show me ID smh.”
A spokesman for Milan’s Carabinieri paramilitary police told The Associated Press on Sunday that racial profiling had no role in the “routine check.”
The spokesman, who asked not to be identified as per usual procedures, said that one of the three Carabinieri officers who stopped James was carrying a M12 submachine gun and the other two officers had pistols on their belts but that no weapons were pointed during the check.
“[The M12] a weapon that we’ve been using for years and people here are used to seeing us with them,” the police spokesman said. “Evidently there was a misunderstanding involving this guy who perhaps isn’t used to these kinds of checks.
“We asked him for his documents, and once they were checked, everyone dispersed,” the spokesman added. “For us, it wasn’t even a check worth reporting. It was an absolutely calm situation without any problems.”
The police spokesman said that the check occurred on a residential street outside Milan’s city center Saturday.
Asked about James’ claim that he and his friends were singled out among 50 people, the police spokesman said that “50 people may have passed during the entire check,” adding that “that day those three officers must have stopped 50 people in all.”
Random checks of pedestrians by police in Italy appear to be less frequent than occasional random checks of drivers of vehicles for anti-terrorism and other security controls.
There was no immediate reply to a request sent by the AP to Olimpia Milano asking to speak to James.