Nearly two years ago, James Blake was minding his own business, standing outside Manhattan's Grand Hyatt Hotel, when suddenly, a plainclothes NYPD officer tackled him to the ground. Blake was handcuffed and arrested. It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, and Blake, who is biracial, used the incident as a platform to speak out against racial profiling.

"It made me realize that this happens to other people every day that don't have a voice," said Blake, who retired as a pro tennis player in 2013. "I have a voice. I want to make a difference for those that don't have a voice."

James Blake

His latest effort is the publication of "Ways of Grace: Stories of Activism, Adversity, and How Sports Can Bring Us Together," a book about athletes using their celebrity for the greater good.

"The message of the book is to highlight positive impacts athletes have had on society," said Blake, whose world ranking peaked at No. 4 in 2006. "There's so many negative stories about athletes in the headlines and I wanted to show that there are some real heroes that are out there on the fields, on the courts and they can make a difference and they can really have an impact."

With the events in Charlottesville and the subsequent protests still fresh in everyone's minds, Blake praised all peaceful demonstrations, especially those seen on NFL sidelines since the start of the 2016 season, notably Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem. During a preseason game this year, 12 members of the Browns kneeled during the anthem.

"Doing anything peacefully in my opinion is something positive," Blake said. "If they're bringing light to a cause that really effects them, and they want to speak up about it, then more power to them and they should be able to do that."

Tennis players haven't staged such protests, and Blake understands why that might be the case.

"With an individual sport, if you don't want to deal with the backlash, if you don't want to deal with all the press and you don't have the education on an issue to speak up about it, then I think it's perfectly fine not to speak up," he said. "But if you have something that makes you feel passionate and makes you feel like you can make a difference in the world, then I encourage anyone -- any athlete, any non-athlete, and celebrity, any actor, actress -- to go out and speak about it, and let people know because that's what caused me to do it."

Blake is a big supporter of AKTIV Against Cancer, a 501(c)(3) that backs various research projects to study how physical activity can have a preventive effect against cancer. This cause hits especially close to home for Blake as he lost his father to stomach cancer in the summer of 2004.

James Blake

"It's a common goal to have less families impacted by cancer," Blake said. "My family was definitely effected in a negative way and so many others are, so we want to do everything we can to raise money to help others have their fathers, their mothers, their brothers and sisters around much longer. I'm happy to be a part of this, any time I get an offer for something that's going to help cancer and cancer patients and cancer research, I'm happy to be a part of it."

In advance of the U.S. Open, Blake participated in AKTIV's pro-am tennis fundraiser at the Vanderbilt Tennis Club inside of Grand Central along with Flywheel CEO Sarah Robb O'Hagan, SNY sportscaster Michelle Yu and CBS Sports anchor Tina Cervasio.

Speaking about the future of tennis, Blake cited Sascha Zverev, Nick Kyrgios and Dominic Thiem.

"Those guys are the next Grand Slam champions probably in my opinion," he said. "It's exciting to see them, and then there's a few Americans that are just a few years away from hopefully contending: Jared Donaldson, Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka. We've got about eight or nine guys that I could reel off in American men's tennis that have an opportunity in the next three or four years to really make a dent in pro tennis."

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