Fact Check

Did Biden Liken Playing Ball with Black Athletes to 'The Green Mile'?

The film "The Green Mile" highlights the disparity between the sentencing and treatment of white and Black penitentiary inmates during the Great Depression.

Published Nov. 3, 2020

Updated Nov. 6, 2020
Image Via C-SPAN
In a Nov. 3, 2020 interview with reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden likened his experiences playing ball with Black athletes to Stephen King’s Green Mile.

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While recapping his 2020 bid for the presidency with reporters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said that during his time working as a lifeguard at a country club, he played ball with “a lot of great Black athletes,” and that while he didn’t know them, “it was a great education” similar to the film “The Green Mile.”

Readers asked Snopes if Biden's remarks were accurately reported in this instance. They were. While speaking with reporters on Nov. 3, Biden said the following, which can be found at the 3:17 mark:

When I started off as a kid, I had a job at a nice country club kind of pool as a lifeguard. I wanted to work on the east side because I knew I played ball with a lot of great Black athletes, but I knew that I — you know — I didn’t know them. I mean, we knew each other. We were friends, but I didn’t know them, and it was a great education. It was like, The Green Mile, you know. You’ve seen the movie?


Adapted from the 1996 novel written by Stephen King, “The Green Mile” is a 1999 movie that details the disparity in the lives of Black prisoners and white prison guards in a Louisiana penitentiary during the Great Depression. John Coffey, a Black death row prisoner played by Michael Clarke Duncan, is sentenced to die for the rape and murder of two young girls — a crime that he did not commit. Paul Edgecomb, a white man who is the head of the prison guard and played by Tom Hanks, discovers Coffey’s innocence and goes on to defend the prisoner.

In the interview, Biden went on to say that there were people that he “had known for a long time” that had lived in a middle of a city or county that was white, and they “didn’t know anybody.”


Correction [Nov. 6, 2020]: A previous version of this article confused the plot of “The Green Mile” with that of “The Shawshank Redemption” and incorrectly stated that Hanks was a “white prisoner.”

Madison Dapcevich is a freelance contributor for Snopes.

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