It is obvious why the Sacramento News and Review would write the story of John Tennis. The Dec. 14 feature story almost wrote itself.
Tennis was a local high school athlete who joined the military to travel around the world in an Army paratrooper unit. After serving his country, Tennis returned to serve his hometown of Sacramento, Calif., for three decades as a police officer. He embodied the American spirit of multiculturalism by marrying a black woman and raising four interracial children. It was a heartwarming tale of heroism, service and duty. The piece even featured a picture of Tennis proudly wearing a T-shirt with the Superman logo emblazoned across it.
Even the tragic parts of the beautiful profile induced a case of the warm-and-fuzzies. He carried a picture of his children in his wallet to motivate himself, even after his marriage fell apart. He became disillusioned with his career but still served dutifully. The profile left the reader with a sympathetic view of how John Tennis managed to overcome adversity and was still standing. Tennis did, after all, open his heart and pour out the agonizing details of his life. He should get credit for that. It made him more likable. It endeared him to the reader.
There was just one problem with John Tennis:
John Tennis killed black people.
Not on purpose, mind you. It was just part of the job. If you read Raheem Hosseini’s article, you’d know how hard it is to be a cop. Even though it came off as a little biased, the profile was fair. It dedicated three whole sentences to how Tennis beat his black ex-wife until she filed a restraining order on him, but was still allowed to work in law enforcement. There was an entire sentence about him working as a cop while being addicted to alcohol. It even included a sentence about a lawsuit accusing him of excessive force during an arrest of a sex offender. The author also included a few words about him firing his weapon at a suspected car thief in the 1990s, and a couple of well-worded paragraphs about how Tennis shot a suspect who was acting erratically in 2000. It briefly mentioned the fact that Tennis hit a 15-year-old high school student with his car.
Hosseini even told the story of how Tennis choked 35-year-old Albert Thiel to death in 1997. Thiel was high on crack cocaine when Tennis choked Thiel with so much force that the thyroid cartilage in his throat fractured, causing hemorrhaging that partially blocked his airway, killing him. Tennis admitted “that was probably me,” although it never became part of the public record when he was absolved of wrongdoing.
But it was the story of Joseph Mann that caused Tennis’ downfall. On July 11, 2016, someone called 911 on Mann. He had been acting erratically, doing karate moves in the air, and other cops were trying to avoid a confrontation with Mann, who had a history of drug use and mental illness. They were patiently trying to wait him out as they called for backup.
Tennis heard the call and sped toward the scene with his partner. Tennis knew Mann was armed, so instead of waiting like everyone else, he sped right in. In 44 seconds he tried to hit Mann twice with his car. “Fuck this guy,” said Randy Lozoya, Tennis’ partner.
“I’m gonna hit him,” Tennis can be heard saying on the dashcam video.
Then Tennis and his partner popped out of the car and pumped 14 bullets into Joseph Mann.
Joseph Mann was carrying a knife.
The Sacramento News and Review’s sympathetic portrayal of how Tennis was terminated from his job angered more people than the Mann family. The local chapter of Black Lives Matter suggested that the paper cover some of the black men in the area who had been killed by police officers. Trina Allen wrote a scathing condemnation of the story for Incite Action:
Sacramento News and Review just gave their cover story to a murderer, so he can “unburden” himself. Raheem Hosseini used Joseph Mann and his family as background scenery for a bullshit cautionary tale about bad apple policing and omitted the very real struggle of local Black freedom fighters to end the constant river of Black death onto our Sacramento streets.
The very question of “Am I a murderer?” is sickening when video/audio evidence unquestionably shows LEOs Tennis and Loyoza premeditating Joseph’s murder. Tennis’s platform is Sacramento Police Department’s unchecked power, and his story is that of repeated murder and anti-Black terror. Hosseini chose to write a sensationalist piece that humanized an assassin and paralleled the experiences of victim and victimizer. White supremacy dominates liberal media.
In response, Hosseini posted a rebuttal on the News and Review’s Facebook page disputing the claim that the story was a puff piece on a killer. He explained that the picture of Tennis in the Superman shirt was not his choice, but said: “I admit I did not know that I needed to tell him NOT to wear something as insensitive as that. But thinking on it, I was like, wow, this is a pretty revealing statement about who this guy is.” Hosseini also said that he thought the piece was “three-dimensional,” not flattering, because “it’s humans who commit murder. Not cartoon villains. Not concepts ... ,” before adding:
I could be wrong, but I kind of feel like there’s this unconscious notion that other readers aren’t going to be smart enough to “get it.” That without the writer (in this case me) breaking in and underlining certain words, readers aren’t smart enough to see Tennis and his story for what it is. I’ve never believed that. I think the reaction to this piece shows that, in a weird way. It’s just that some people feel like that’s in spite of the article, rather than because of it.
But look, I am always fully aware that I am a white man in this world. Yeah, my Iranian heritage has made me the butt of some dark shit since 9/11, but that’s very different from being a black man in America. I have blind spots I don’t even know about. I fully acknowledge that and try to get better every day at finding them.
But here’s where the story got even more interesting: The News and Review tagged the names of local Black Lives Matter activists in the Facebook posts, which is the equivalent of pointing trolls, white supremacists and “Blue Lives Matter” in their direction and saying, “Have at them.”
Hosseini and the “progressive” Sacramento News and Review remain unapologetic for their doubling down. Hosseini says that he stands by his choices, and even though the paper has removed the tags to BLM activists, the paper published an editorial thanking readers for sharing their outrage over their fellating of a killer, noting that they are “honored” to hear their readers’ truth.
If it seems as if the black lives extinguished by Tennis were background props for telling a tears-inducing tale, it’s because they were. The dead bodies serve as speed bumps along his road to redemption. That’s how it works for white men who write stories or steal lives. Tennis is a cop and a killer, but he is now absolved because he told the truth. Hosseini heard his truth—even if the “truth” sounds a little like “Fuck those dead black people.”
Shouldn’t John Tennis be commended? Shouldn’t readers forget about the puddles of blood Raheem Hosseini stepped over to turn a killer cop into a teddy bear? Shouldn’t they both be considered heroes?
It says it right there on the shirt.