Harlem Globetrotters member Maxwell “Hops” Pearce said he was disappointed in himself for not speaking up when two broadcasters from “Good Day Alabama,” on WBRC Fox6 News in Birmingham, Alabama, threw fruit at him during a live TV segment. Pearce explains now that the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd compelled him to talk about the incident, which happened in January.
During his segment, the 24-year-old was promoting the Harlem Globetrotters appearing at Samford University and was showing some of the a tricks the team does. He first displayed them to broadcaster Mike Dubberly, then to weather forecaster Mickey Ferguson.
Ferguson then threw a tangerine at Pearce, as he mimicked the Globetrotters’ moves.
“You weren’t expecting that one,” said Ferguson as he laughed. “I certainly wasn’t,” Pearce responded before handing him the fruit. “Here you can take that back.”
The clip ends there, but the full version, which Pearce posted on Instagram, Sunday, Aug. 16, shows another tangerine being thrown at him, then a banana by someone off-camera.
Pearce addressed the incident in his Instagram video and said the other broadcaster involved, who wasn’t on camera, is Clare Huddleston.
“This is a prime example of how the effects of 400 years of oppression have impacted this country,” he stated. “This is symbolic of the daily microaggressions that Black people deal with and I’m not going to be silent about it anymore.”
Pearce then said that Fox 6 suggested that he phone the broadcasters so they could apologize, but “stood down” not wanting to risk his job, a decision that he later regretted.
However, that feeling of wanting to remain silent vanished after Floyd and Taylor died at the hands of police officers.
“The constant battle of compromising your integrity, weighing the pros and cons of whether you should call out a racist act is extremely taxing,” Pearce explained.
The news station aired an interview with Pearce talking about the incident on Aug. 14, where he gave historical context to explain why throwing fruit at him is so offensive. But Pearce said the station omitted the historical parts he spoke of, which he was troubled by.
“The most relevant part omitted was the story of Ota Benga, who was an African man, who was kidnapped and put on display at The Bronx Zoo,” he explained. “He was caged in the monkey house and then tortured, spit on, and had bananas thrown at him, while over a quarter-million people came to visit him at this time.”
Benga, one of the so-called pygmy people, was born in the Congo region in the late 1800s and was bought out of captivity by American Samuel Phillips Verner before being brought to the United States. Verner first put Benga on display at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, then The Bronx Zoo in 1906, where he was featured in an exhibition like an animal. Benga also spent much of his time in a Monkey House exhibit.
Last month The Wildlife Conservation Society, which manages The Bronx Zoo, apologized for the exhibit in a letter.
Toward the end of Pearce’s video, he urged people to speak up whenever they see wrongdoing being committed, which he says is the best way to put a dent in racism.
“Meaningful dialogue with other cultures comes with the discomfort in confronting these realities but it gives us the ability to understand what other people experience and allows us to become aware of the racial blind spots that we all have,” he said.
At this time, the broadcasters who threw the fruit at Pearce have yet to issue personal apologies.