I walked into the greenroom and there he sat. I gave him a second glance and then asked, "Are you?" He replied, "Yes, I'm Rodney King, nice to meet you." And that was the beginning of our two hour conversation where we talked about everything from being the victim of an incident of police brutality to the current state of discrimination in America and even his celebrity boxing appearances.
Rodney King will always be associated with the phrase "Can't we all just get along." I can tell you he really hoped to see that in his lifetime. He told me he wanted the 1991 incident to serve as an example so that people everywhere, regardless of creed, color or sexual orientation could all get along. He stared right into my eyes as he talked never looking away once. He was as honest as they come.
We continued to talk about the last 20 years and intolerance in America and you could feel the mood shift. It was if I had touched on a sour note or something he didn't want to discuss. Mr. King explained it wasn't anything I had said, but an issue he felt had actually gotten worse in America since his beating by police had dominated the headlines.
He went on to explain that sadly in America, there always seems to have to be one group of the population that is being discriminated against or that people demonstrate hatred towards. We agreed that in 20 years intolerance in America hasn't gotten any better, the focus has just changed. Today it's about issues of homosexuality and gay marriage, for example, but regardless of the underlying causes, kids in America are learning this behavior earlier than ever with stories of bullying - some of which lead to suicides - dominating the headlines.
The conversation continued with a slightly gloomy feel to it when Mr. King told me about his own personal life since the police beating. He admitted that he had his share of problems, battled alcohol addiction and ran into other troubles, and even went as far as admitting he lost the three-million dollar settlement he had received from the city of Los Angeles.
He said he was making an honest living appearing in celebrity boxing tournaments, but he wasn't all that enthralled about doing them. It was just for the paycheck. As we spoke about this, former police officer Simon Aouad, King's opponent in the celebrity boxing match that night, walked into the greenroom with his girlfriend and started talking smack to king. As calmly and politely as you can imagine, King said to Aouad, "The cameras aren't on; let's be gentlemen about this," to which Aouad had no response and just left the room. I must admit it was nice to see King defeat Aouad in the match.
No matter how people may have judged Rodney King, I can tell you the Rodney King I talked to in the greenroom that day was intelligent and able to carry on a conversation on all different topics, and he was as sincere and nice as they come. He didn't need to talk with me or even get as detailed as he did, but the opportunity to speak one-on-one is something I will never forget.
I'm in no way advocating that Rodney King is a role model and certainly his run ins with the law say enough about the life he led. However, his death should be used as the rebirth to the words he uttered back in 1991, "Can't we all just get along." I'm pretty confident if he came back from the dead and met up with me in the next greenroom I visit, that's exactly what he would say to me.