Bryant: Race Was Factor In Weekend Abuse Arrest

By WGBH News

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Mar. 1, 2011

BOSTON — Sportswriter Howard Bryant is defending himself against what he says are racially-charged allegations of domestic abuse.

Howard Bryant, an author and senior writer for ESPN, stands prior to his arraignment in Greenfield, Mass. on Monday. (AP)

Bryant, a senior writer for ESPN, was arrested on Saturday after witnesses said they saw him hit his wife Veronique on the neck and push her into their car outside of a pizza shop in the Western Massachusetts town of Buckley.

But he and his wife both say it was argument, not an instance of abuse — and that observers and police overreacted because of race. Howard Bryant is black, and Veronique Bryant is white.

"If you read (my wife's) comments, she was never threatened in any way. This was a complete, total misunderstanding and overreaction." Bryant told WGBH's Emily Rooney. 

Bryant admits he and his wife were fighting outside of the pizza shop — and that he did make physical contact with her. "We were arguing about our marriage. We've been in a trial separation and we've been talking very seriously about a critical point in our marriage," Bryant said. "The type of physical touching was more in terms of, 'Listen to me,' and she was trying to guide me into a space away from people."

Bryant said the police came after the Bryants were in the car, with their son in the back seat. Witnesses say Bryant struck one of the troopers in the chest with his elbow, but Bryant denies resisting arrest.  

Veronique Bryant sat next to Howard at a court in Greenfield on Monday. She says she has never been a victim of domestic abuse. (AP)

Bryant is frustrated neither witnesses nor police asked he and his wife what was going on.  "Aggression over dialogue destroyed an afternoon for a lot of people," he said.

Bryant's attorney says he thinks race played a role in the arrest — and Bryant agrees. "When you try to spend your life to be a person of substance, you try to spend your life doing things the right way, and when all of that can get taken in an afternoon, yes, race did play a part of it," Bryant said. "When you read the police reports, the very first description about me in them is, 'This black guy.'"

"What happened on Saturday did not have to happen," Bryant said. "I think the hardest thing about this is I have a six-year-old that I have to explain this to."

Bryant pled 'not guilty' to charges including domestic assault and battery on Monday.

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