In the latest episode of the FOX show, Crews’ character Sergeant Terry Jeffords experiences the discriminatory practice when he’s stopped by a fellow police officer (played by guest star Desmond Harrington) while he’s off duty in his own neighborhood.
Now, the 48-year-old athlete-turned actor says the episode pulled from his own real-life experience.
“A few years ago, I was on a flight from Chicago to San Diego and I was pulled off the flight by the police in front of everybody,” Crews recalled in an interview with HipHollywood. “Pulled off, yanked off, standing in the jetway with the police officers because they thought I was a drug dealer. Simply because I bought my ticket with cash.”
Crews, who was in the NFL at the time, said he told the officers he was a football player — at which point they said, “Oh, can we get your autograph?”
“I could not believe what I was experiencing,” he said. “You know, they let me go, they put me back on the airplane … it was really strange because, walking back on the airplane, everyone’s like, ‘What’s wrong with this guy?’ ”
“All I could think about was, ‘What if I wasn’t a football player? What if I was just traveling with my family? What if I was just going to see my mom?’ ”
“The thing is, being a professional athlete or being famous changed the game,” he added. “And, let me tell you, that’s what they did with this episode.”
The episode, which aired on Tuesday, tells a similar story: In a tense scene, Crews’ character realizes the other officer only regrets stopping him because he’s a fellow cop — but feels no remorse for stopping an innocent African-American man.
“Here I was, racially profiled in my own neighborhood looking for my daughter’s toy,” Crews told HipHollywood. “And the cop who does it basically says, ‘Hey, if I had known you were a cop, I wouldn’t have done it.’ And it’s like, what?”
Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Tuesdays (8 p.m. ET) on FOX.