Cop In Race Debate Has Reggie Lewis Connection

Yep, JUST what President Obama needed at this juncture of the health reform battle: A national debate over a supposedly racist cop. Remember when just such a thing was so beneficial to the O.J. Simpson prosecution team? And now our latest story is new and improved with an oven-fresh sports angle, which I’ll get to in a second.

James Crowley, Reggie Lewis

On the left here we have Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley, who this past Thursday arrested noted Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates at Gates’ own home following a report of a break-in. Gates was arrested despite showing Crowley his ID, prompting President Obama to opine in his news conference on Wednesday that Crowley had “acted stupidly.” Is Crowley a racist? No, he says — he can’t be. Because he once gave mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to Celtics star Reggie Lewis.

OK, this is getting odd and uncomfortable.

Turns out Crowley was the campus police officer who tried to unsuccessfully resuscitate Lewis in 1993, when the 27-year-old Celtics forward suffered a fatal heart attack during an practice at Brandeis University.

“I wasn’t working on Reggie Lewis the basketball star. I wasn’t working on a black man. I was working on another human being,” Sgt. James Crowley, in an exclusive interview with the Herald, said of the forward’s fatal heart attack.

“Some people were saying ‘There’s the guy who killed Reggie Lewis’ afterward. I was broken-hearted. I cried for many nights,” he said.

Crowley, 42, said he’s not a racist, despite how some have cast his actions in the Gates case. “Those who know me know I’m not,” he said.

But Crowley has been on the receiving end of some pointed criticism, many categorizing the incident as an ugly example of racial profiling. Most vociferous has been Gates himself, who has demanded an apology. But Crowley says that he has nothing to apologize for. Enter the Prez.

“I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that,” Obama said. “But I think it’s fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry.

“No. 2, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home.” …

That Crowley would try to use the Lewis incident as a get-out-of-trouble card is a little disturbing (the New York Daily News account of the story indicates that he did; the Boston Herald story is a little less clear on that).  But it’s not necessary to prove racist intent to flag Crowley for loutish, unprofessional behavior. Hell, if I were arrested for breaking into my own house (let’s just forget the notorious “nude tequila memory loss” incident), I’d want an apology.

Bonus: Obama gets off a funny line about breaking into the White House (see video below). Oh, and the Herald story already has about 700 comments. And the Mass. Police Officers’ Union is now mad at Obama for chiming in. But unless another sports angle crops up, I’ll leave it here. Seacrest out.