Carmelo goes to Baltimore


Thousands of Americans have been marching, protesting and rioting in the wake of yet another death in custody of an African-American, Mr Freddie Gray. The ongoing mistreatment of African-Americans by the police departments across the country United States should be a concern to Americans of all races, colours and creeds. But it may have surprised fans of the New York Knicks to see their star player, Carmelo Anthony amongst them.

Some may consider his willingness to stand in solidarity with the people of Baltimore unusual. It’s not hard to think of the likely criticisms. What would a multimillionaire know about the complex relationship between the Baltimore Police and the economically disadvantaged African-American community? Shouldn’t he just stick to sports instead of forcing his politics upon everyone? Some Knicks fans even went as far as to suggest Anthony should not risk his surgically repaired knee on protesting the injustice that has occurred.

Carmelo marching for justice
Carmelo marching for justice

Of course this is a very limited way to think about this. Carmelo grew up in Baltimore and has already pointed out he has a deep affinity for the people of the area. He is also – in case you haven’t noticed – an African-American, and likely knows the death of Freddie Gray is something that should be avoidable, but is repeated day-after-day across America. Growing up in relative disadvantage also gives Carmelo a unique perspective of the challenges faced by Baltimore’s less fortunate and their strained relationship with the police. His decision to participate in a peaceful protest is also, of course, a right guaranteed to him by the United States’ Bill of Rights.

It is also a responsibility that we all should share – you cannot stop injustice if you do not point it out first.

Regardless of whether or not he is ‘right’ to protest, it is interesting to me that he has chosen to do so. Carmelo has often sought to portray himself as a ‘businessman’ as well as an NBA star. It has been suggested that his move to, and decision to stay in, New York were influenced by his business interests. It is impressive that he is willing to potentially put his business goals aside for his principles of social justice. It was not long ago that Michael Jordan famously responded ‘Republicans buy sneakers too’ when asked why he didn’t take any difficult social stances.

The Heat took a stand in the wake of the murder of Trayvorn Martin
The Heat took a stand in the wake of the murder of Trayvorn Martin

But perhaps Carmelo also feels the world is changing and is more supportive of such positions. In recent times many elite sportsmen have felt safe to express their support of principles of social justice and equality. Examples include the photo of the Miami Heat in hoodies in support of the justice for Trayvon Martin movement, LeBron James wearing the ‘stop I can’t breathe’ t shirt, and the Los Angeles Clippers decision to wear their jerseys inside out in protest against then team owner Donald Sterling’s racism.

Of course athletes have taken such stances before. When Tommie Smith and John Carlos famously raised their fists in a salute to the equality and excellence of black Americans at the 1968 Olympics, they were suspended from the games, ostracised from the American sporting community. They received death threats and no longer continued in their sports.

Standing for the rights of black American's cost these gentlemen greatly.
Standing for the rights of black American’s cost these gentlemen greatly.

Mohammad Ali was stripped of his titles and lost four years in his prime when his passport and boxing licences (in all fifty states) were revoked for refusing to fight in Vietnam.

So the stakes are lower in a personal sense for Carmelo. But the importance of the act remains high. As a man of privilege and wealth he has a responsibility and a right to stand with his fellow men and women to say, peacefully, that was has occurred is not ok.  

All Americans should be concerned by the treatment of African-Americans by Baltimore police. And we should be happy that Carmelo is too.



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