Former New York Mets player Cleon Jones, like virtually all America, watched the news closely in the last few days. He knows about George Floyd, a black man, who died after Derek Chauvin, a police officer in Minneapolis, kneeled on his neck for about nine straight minutes. He knows the pain Floyd suffered, begging for the cop to stop and telling him he couldn’t breathe.
For Jones, who played 13 years in the majors and 12 with the New York Mets, the fact that Floyd died in such a coward and unfair way brought back some memories he would rather not re-live.
He spoke with New York Daily News’ beat writer for the Mets Deesha Thosar, and told her the story when he had his own issues with the police in Mobile, Alabama, back in 1977. He had been pulled for a faulty turn signal, and he didn’t provide his license. At that moment, the police officer told him to wait and walked away from the scene.
“I waited and waited until finally I asked, ‘What’s going on? How long do you want me to wait?’ Jones said. “A couple of seconds later, more police vehicles showed up and another officer approached me.”
“We’re going to whoop your ass,” the officer told Jones.
The former Mets player told the police bet him and wrestled him down to the ground. He attempted to run away, and said he did it because the whole scene was taking place in front of his business.
Neighbors came out of their homes screaming Cleon’s name, asking what was happening. The police left amid calls from the people asking them to stop fighting.
“They didn’t realize who I was at the time,” Jones said. “When people started calling my name, the white officers realized they picked the wrong individual. And this happened in 1977! God knows what happened before then, because I know for a fact it happened to other folks.”
He was cursed at and received racial slurs in his Mets days
Even when he was playing with the Mets, Jones was cursed at and people used to spit on him and call him racial slurs.
“We as black folks have been crying foul for years,” he said.
“Current players, owners and fans have got to come together to try to work out a solution, how to move forward,” Jones said. “There’s going to have to be a joint effort to make it work and make it sustainable so that sports can retain this meaningful place in the world.
“Nobody’s born to hate. Hate is being passed down from generation to generation. Until we can break that cycle, we’re going to have situations like we had with George Floyd.”
A member of the 1969 New York Mets, Jones retired with a .281/.339/.404 line, 93 home runs and 91 stolen bases in 13 seasons.