Carmelo Anthony recently sat down with USA TODAY Sports to speak about his continuing fight to bring social justice to America.
USA TODAY Sports
It was Hoops for Troops night at Madison Square Garden, and as the anthem was performed by a member of the armed forces, the New York Knicks stood at attention, some with arms slung over each others’ shoulders, as they have every game.
But Wednesday, there was something different about this time, even as the video board chronicled the Knicks’ preseason minicamp at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. It was less than 24 hours after Donald Trump gave his speech as the winner of Tuesday’s presidential election and the nerves were raw.
Carmelo Anthony has become an outspoken voice on social issues in the last year, taking a leadership position after the death of Freddie Gray in his hometown of Baltimore, then the mounting gun violence in inner cities and then the cases of violence among police in the African-American communities. But this time, his audience was his 9-year-old son, Kiyan.
He watched the election with his son, and when they woke up
Wednesday morning to the news, he had to struggle to explain.
“Now it is our responsibility as men and women to take into our hands and be role models and be our own leaders at this point regardless of who is the Commander in Chief,” Anthony said. “I think we have much more responsibility now, especially with the youth and kind of educating them.
“I talked to kids today and this morning, my family, you can just hear the nervousness, they are afraid and don’t know what to think and people don’t know what to do at this point. I think it is up to us as individuals to kind of take on that responsibility, and everybody has to lead in their own way. We can’t rely on a system or one person and we got to move on from that.”
He was hardly alone, not just among the voices who rose to question Trump’s plans, but to express fear over a step backward in progress that they had seen. The progress had come in the NBA, too, where commissioner Adam Silver has welcomed the raised voices.
The league backed up its players when they wore, “I can’t breathe” T-shirts after Eric Garner died when being subdued by police. Anthony was part of a PSA in association with the NBA against gun violence and that drew a tweet from President Obama, who noted: “I’m proud of the @NBA for taking a stand against gun violence. Sympathy for victims isn’t enough – change requires all of us speaking up.”
At the ESPY’s earlier this year, Anthony, LeBron James, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade stood together and talked about the need for players and other celebrities to set an example for the youth.
The message seems to have not only taken hold with the youth, but with the players themselves. James, who appeared with Hillary Clinton at a campaign event, along with J.R. Smith, last week put up an Instagram post that didn’t reek with anger, instead insisting that, “we will BE ALRIGHT!”
“Parents and leaders of our children please let them know they can still change the world for the better!” James wrote. “Don’t lose a bit of faith! They’re our future and we must remain stronger than ever!! Yes we all wanna lace up the boots, put on the hard hats and strike but that’s not the answer. Love, genuine LOVE and FAITH will be the only thing that can get us through this.
“Minorities and Women in all please know that this isn’t the end, it’s just a very challenging obstacle that we will overcome!! The man above will never put something in our paths that we can’t handle no matter how difficult it may feel/be! To all the youth out there I PROMISE I’ll continue to lead u guys every single day without no hesitation!! Time to educate and even more mold my children into being the greatest model citizens they can become in life! They will continue the legacy beyond life! Lastly, Even if who’s now in office doesn’t, Know that I LOVE YOU (ALL)!!!”
It is interesting, and a credit to the players, that they have taken on a role whether you agree with their politics or not. The responses are respectful and thoughtful — much like Joakim Noah’s response to war when he gave a reasoned and respectful explanation of why he did not want to engage in meeting with a retired colonel (who coincidentally was a guest of the Knicks at Wednesday’s game).
Much of the credit has gone to retired commissioner David Stern for changing the image of players in the NBA, and maybe some of the changes from the perception of the players goes to him or maybe it goes to the sneaker companies that have presented a new image of the players. But the real credit has to go to the players themselves, who have risked their endorsement dollars and some of their fan base to educate themselves and to speak out.
The players’ voices weren’t the only ones to sound in protest. Evidence of that was on the streets of many cities Wednesday when marches were staged against the policies of Trump. It wasn’t just African-American players or coaches, either. Detroit’s Stan Van Gundy went on a rant of more than six minutes before the Pistons’ game, pointing out, “We have just thrown a good part of our population under the bus, and I have problems with thinking that this is where we are as a country.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr, whose father, Malcolm, a professor at American University in Beirut who was assassinated in Lebanon, told reporters: “All of a sudden you’re faced with a reality that the man who is going to lead you has routinely used racist, misogynistic, insulting words. That’s a tough one. I wish him well. I hope he’s a good president. I have no idea what kind of president he’s going to be because he hasn’t said anything about what he’s going to do. … We talked about it as a team this morning. I don’t know what else to say. Just the whole process has left us feeling disgusted and disappointed. I thought we were better than this.”
It might be difficult to believe we are after the crass campaign that was waged. But if you listen to the players, willing to be reasoned leaders, maybe we are.