Portland Owes Trail Blazers Great Cliff Robinson an Apology for His Cannabis Arrest

Clifford Robinson had a great 18-year NBA career that included an All-Star appearance, a Sixth Man of the Year Award, and two second-team All-Defensive honors. In many ways, the 7-1 forward/center was ahead of his time and his style would be perfect for today’s NBA that features many more outside shooting big men that can run the floor effectively and play defense. The Oregonian named Cliff the 9th best Trail Blazer of all-time and if anyone has better stats than him, they are in the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame, where “Uncle Cliffy” belongs. In our championship-obsessed culture, I sincerely believe that Robinson would be in the Hall of Fame if the 1990s Trail Blazers would have won an NBA title, instead of finishing second to the “Bad Boys” Pistons and the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in 1990 & 1992.

After his fantastic NBA career, Cliff Robinson has become an outspoken proponent of ending cannabis prohibition, a racist policy that has had too many harmful consequences for our society, disproportionately for people of color. Unfortunately, Robinson’s playing days were unnecessarily interrupted due to illogical cannabis laws and, most distressingly, he was the victim of a SWAT raid by the Portland police, a traumatic encounter for which he deserves an apology.

KPTV reported on the fact that Robinson’s social media manager, Chris Young, started a petition urging the City of Portland to apologize to the Trail Blazers great:

Police blocked his car and several officers surrounded him. They found marijuana inside and that sparked a national news story at the time.

Young believes it was a case of racial profiling, and even though it happened long ago, he says Robinson deserves an apology.

“As days turn into weeks and weeks turn to months and months to years, or Cliff’s case, decades, unfortunately people forget about it. But the person it happened to doesn’t forget about it. People bring it up and and say it was a long time ago and you need to get over it and move on, but the person it happens to doesn’t move on. It’s traumatic and stays with them for their life. Whether it happened last Tuesday or 20 years ago, if it’s wrong, it’s wrong,” Young said.

NBC Sports has also covered the petition:

Robinson was worried the incident would put unwarranted controversy on himself heading into free agency and negatively affect the perception of the Trail Blazers, who were teetering on the Jail Blazers days, over what Robinson viewed as extreme abuse of public resources and blatant racial profiling.

“This perception of our team is that we have a bunch of guys who are shady individuals,″ Robinson said at the press conference in 1997. “I don’t do anything but try my best to represent myself, represent the Trail Blazers and represent Portland on and off the court as best as I can.″

The former Trail Blazer would leave Portland for Phoenix that offseason. 

In full disclosure, I’m friends with social media manager Chris Young and have had the pleasure to hang out with Cliff Robinson a few times, although it would be presumptuous of me to say that he’s a friend. I can say that the man can sing and if you get the chance to karaoke with him, you should. Regardless of my personal relationships with those involved, I believe that all nonviolent cannabis users deserve an apology for their arrests.

It’s time that the United States make amends for its racist past and attoning for cannabis prohibition is an important part of addressing systemic racism. Black Lives Matter and SWAT raids like those that Cliff Robinson survived unnecessarily put Black lives in danger. Portland, Oregon, AKA Rip City needs to apologize.

The Change.org Petition in full:

Demand That The City Of Portland Apologize To Cliff Robinson For Racial Profiling Incident

In the summer of 1997 Portland Trail Blazer Clifford Robinson, his brothers, and friends were the subject of blatant racial profiling by Portland (Oregon) police. Robinson was seen entering his vehicle with paintball guns, the cops were called by someone that reported that Robinson and his party had assault rifles, and a public safety alert was broadcast on local and national media.

Robinson’s vehicle, along with its occupants, was subjected to a paramilitary-style blockade near the Portland waterfront, which was widely publicized. Heavily armed Portland police did not find assault rifles in Robinson’s vehicle for obvious reasons (there weren’t any), however, they did locate remnants of cannabis in the vehicle. Despite the cannabis being outside of the reach of where Robinson was located in the vehicle (driver seat), Robinson was charged with possession of cannabis, presumably because of his celebrity status.

That cannabis charge was widely covered by national media instead of the extreme abuse of public resources and blatant racial profiling that Robinson and his party had to endure.

This blatant racial profiling incident has since gone unaddressed. That is unacceptable. Please sign this petition to demand that the City of Portland apologize for this incident. A public apology will never fix the past, however, it can at least clear the record and make it widely known that what happened to Robinson and his party in 1997 was shameful. The City of Portland can never fully move forward if it cannot acknowledge the harms that it created in the past. Thank you for signing this petition and sharing it with everyone that you know.

More information regarding the racial profiling incident described in this petition can be found here: https://apnews.com/f7eb349befd2dc8e9a78f99950ada42d

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