Carmelo Anthony: We athletes can no longer remain on the sidelines in the struggle for justice

Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony: ‘There’s nothing political about taking a stand and speaking on what you believe in.’ Photograph: Noam Galai/FilmMagic


Hashtags won’t solve the endless cycle of violence that’s engulfed America. That’s why I’m calling on my fellow athletes to stand up and do more

My first thought when I heard about the shooting of Alton Sterling last Tuesday was: OK, here we are again. Then after reading about the killing of Philando Castile the next day, and the shooting of police at a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas the day after, the domino effect of violence left me paralyzed. I felt in my heart it was time to put something out there and call on my fellow athletes to band together. I had to say something. I just didn’t know what.

Every time something like this happens, people rush online to Twitter and Instagram to share their opinions. Everybody says the same thing but we never get anywhere. At first I wasn’t going to post anything because I wanted to get all the information first. I slept on it overnight and woke up in the middle of the morning to a nagging voice: What am I going to say? I didn’t want it to be the same things as everybody else: #AltonSterling, #PhilandoCastile, #DallasPoliceShooting. When I chose to speak out, it was a matter of being honest, speaking from the heart about what’s going on and calling on my colleagues to step up, get out there and put pressure on the people in charge to not let this happen anymore. No more hashtags.

Do athletes have a responsibility to stand up? I don’t want to put it all on athletes. I believe all people need to rise up and make their voices heard. But I do think that athletes have the biggest reach, especially now with social media and all the people that follow us. We have one of the biggest platforms to speak out, one where people pay attention to what we have to say, whether it’s everyday civilians or those in positions of power. We have that influence. It’s just a matter of if we want to use it or not. Everybody uses it for different reasons. But at a time like this, you have to put aside the politics of business and whether a sponsor or somebody from a company that you represent is going to call you about it. If you’re a human being, this affects everybody.

Whether you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company or you’re a mailman or you’re homeless, this affects you. No athlete should think: If I speak up, I’m going to lose an endorsement or a sponsorship. Because if that’s the case then you have to question the kind of people that you’re doing business with and ask yourself where their heads and morals are at.

So what next? I don’t have the answer. Nobody does. But what we can do is start bring a continuous awareness and keep this conversation going. We can’t keep riding on this merry-go-round where tragedy happens, it’s all over TV and social media, everybody talks about it, then in three and four days it’s over with.

In three weeks I’ll travel to Rio with the United States’ Olympic team to perform on a global stage. I haven’t spoken with my team-mates yet about the opportunity before us and how we can take advantage of it, because at the end of the day I want it to be genuine. If you don’t feel like you want to make a statement or make a stand, then don’t do it. You shouldn’t feel forced to do it. You have to want to do that. For me, I do feel like this is a platform where we should – we as athletes, we as Americans – use it for something. Whether we make a statement out there or send a message, we can show the world that we’re united. Whatever way we want to do it, this is a chance to do something meaningful before an audience of billions. I don’t know what that something is yet, but we still have time to figure it out.

But how can we make a change back home? You can start off small. If everybody just focuses on their own community, then we’re making progress. We can’t try to solve all the issues at once. We’ve just got to zero in on our own individual communities and once we build that up and that becomes stronger, then I think everything will settle down and be cool again. There needs to be a mutual respect from both sides: between the police officers and the people in the streets. We have to reintroduce that respect factor into our local communities because there’s no respect from either side anymore.

We all know our history, especially when it comes to sports and activism. We know Ali. We know Jim Brown. We know Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. But over the years as athletes started making more money, they started thinking: I don’t want people to talk bad about me for talking politics. But this is not really about politics. There’s nothing political about taking a stand and speaking on what you believe in. The teams and the support systems around athletes urge them to stay away from politics, stay away from religion, stay away from this, stay away from that. But at certain times you’ve just got to put all of that aside and be a human being. That time is now.

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