It’s been nearly a decade since Wendell Brown played his last snap on the gridiron for Ball State University. In the last two years, Brown went from being a football coach traveling abroad in China to being detained in a foreign prison. 

Now, the Detroit native is serving a four-year sentence, which was decided in a Chinese court June 27. 

Brown was charged with intentional assault after his involvement in a 2016 bar fight. While one man sustained an injury to his eye, which later had to be removed, Brown said he only acted in self defense.

In Chinese courts the conviction rate is 99 percent. However, disputes such as Brown’s are often settled outside of the courts. In Brown’s case, however, the injured man required Brown pay more than $100,000 to avoid taking the case to court.

Wendell’s lawyer Wu Junmei said he pleaded not guilty in court and intends to appeal the court’s decision now that he has been sentenced.  

“It was devastating to hear,” said Wendell’s mother, Antoinette Brown, in a phone interview with The Daily News. “They clearly have no evidence. They sentenced an innocent man with no evidence.”

While Wendell has been detained, Antoinette and his family have worked to help him by hiring a lawyer, starting a GoFundMe page and reaching out to members of the United States government, including President Donald Trump. 

The GoFundMe has raised more than $18,000 out of its $50,000 goal. When asked why she reached out to Trump, Antoinette said she was given hope when he helped three UCLA basketball players who were caught shoplifting in China Nov. 7, 2017, and hoped Trump would do the same for her son. 

Ball State alumni also have reached out to Wendell’s family to offer help, though Antoinette said despite everyone’s efforts, she has not had a verbal conversation with her son since September 2016. 

“We will continue to fight and to reach out to more government officials and to resolving this and having him returned home,” Antoinette said. 

Contact Brooke Kemp with comments at or on Twitter @brookemkemp. Contact Garrett Looker with comments at or on Twitter @Garrett_Looker.