All-Star College Football Player Who Served 3 Years in Chinese Prison… Released

A Detroit native who served three years in a Chinese prison is making his way home today. Former all-star college football player Wendell Brown was sentenced to prison after a bar fight, in which he says he was just trying to defend himself.

After three years in a Chinese prison for assaulting a man during a bar fight, Brown returned home Wednesday to his loved ones. Outside of his family’s brick house on Detroit’s east side, he reflected on regaining his freedom.

“We don’t really understand that word to its fullest extent until (we’re) without it,” Brown said. “Hallelujah! I’m free!”

Brown, 32, was hesitant to discuss the Chongqing bar incident, which he referred to as a “minor altercation,” or his treatment in prison. “I’m just very fortunate that it’s over,” he said, adding that he will soon head to Florida to see his 12-year-old son.

Brown, who played at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Detroit and Ball State University in Indiana, was teaching English and coaching American football in southwestern China when he was arrested in September 2016 and charged with intentional assault. Brown, who was the only person prosecuted over the incident, denied hitting the man and said he was defending himself after being attacked. And witnesses said Brown was being harassed by other patrons. The court, however, ruled that he “didn’t do enough to de-escalate the situation,” according to the Dui Hua Foundation, a San Francisco-based rights monitoring group.

Brown was sentenced to four years in prison, but a Chinese court later reduced it to three years, saying that was due to apologies and expressions of forgiveness between Brown and others involved in the fight, as well as Brown’s payment of $28,750 in compensation.