Former top wrestler says his sport could teach law enforcement about the right methods of combat

On a sports podcast this week, a former athlete who once ranked as the No. 5 Greco-Roman wrestler in the U.S. said his sport could help teach cops about better methods of combat while on duty.

“If athletics can have a role in this way and helping our country heal, it should come from athletes who understand not only how combat works — physical hand-to-hand combat — but also what it feels like to be on the other side,” said Akil Patterson, who is also a former collegiate football player and currently is a community advocate in Baltimore. “To feel fear, to have a representation that is a different mindset.”

This year, he ran for the Baltimore City Council and wound up finishing third in his race last week.

“When I was 18, I thought I knew the world,” Patterson added. “At 36 now, I’m like, ‘I don’t know anything.’ That’s what you learn. That’s what college is for. That’s why I don’t believe police officers should be high school graduates.”

He said he wants to work with the National Governing Bodies of WrestlingJudo and Ju-Jitsu to create law enforcement training programs for the future in the wake of the death of George Floyd.


Floyd, a bouncer who had lost his job because of the coronavirus outbreak, was seized by police after being accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. The 46-year-old father, athlete and avid sports fan known as Big Floyd cried out for his mother and pleaded he couldn’t breathe as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck May 25.

Cellphone video of the encounter ignited protests and scattered violence in cities across the U.S. and around the world.

Some of the mostly peaceful demonstrations that erupted after Floyd’s death were marked by bursts of arson, assaults, vandalism and smash-and-grab raids on businesses, with more than 10,000 people arrested. But protests in recent days have been overwhelmingly peaceful.

He was pinned to the pavement for what prosecutors say was 8 minutes, 46 seconds — a number that has since become a rallying cry among protesters.

Four Minneapolis officers were arrested in his death: Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with second-degree murder. J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao were charged with aiding and abetting. All four could get up to 40 years in prison.

“The talk in my home versus the talk in your home was different,” Patterson said. “The talk in my home was how not to be killed, and how not to be beaten by police. How not to wear jeans that sag low; how not to wear certain clothes; how to speak the right way. When people say, ‘Oh, you’re so well-spoken.’ That’s because my parents didn’t want me speaking ebonics. They didn’t want me to speak slang like my cousins were in New York. My parents raised me so I wouldn’t get hurt.”