In the new issue of ESPN magazine, Carmelo Anthony talks more about systemic racism and police violence than he does basketball. Following the death of Baltimore’s Freddie Gray in April 2015, the NBA superstar felt it his civic duty to make a stand against the extrajudicial murders occurring disproportionately in black and brown communities.
After participating in ads against gun violence, and building basketball courts across Brooklyn, Baltimore and Puerto Rico, Anthony followed those lesser known acts of social change with a grand opening at the 2016 ESPY awards where he was joined by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul to challenge fellow athletes to speak up on behalf of the injustices affecting people of color.
Carmelo, whose late father Carmelo Iriarte was also an activist and a member of Puerto Rican nationalist group the Young Lords, is entering his 14th NBA season during a time of national unrest. Realizing his power as a professional athlete and toast of the sports world, Melo sits down with ESPN in an interview that aims to unpack racial politics concerning police violence, and the many variables at play behind a broken system.
The system is broken. It trickles down. It’s the education. You’ve got to be educated to know how to deal with police. The police have to be educated on how to deal with people. The system has to put the right police in the right situations. Like, you can’t put white police in the ‘hood. You just can’t do that. They don’t know how to react. They don’t know how to respond to those different situations. They’ve never been around that, you know? When I was growing up, we knew police by their first name. We gave them the nicknames. But that’s only because we related. And when the white police came into our neighborhood, the black police said, “Yo, we got this.” That doesn’t happen anymore. You got black police afraid to go into black communities now, and the white police are like, “Shit, I’ll come. It’s a job. I’ll go in there and do it.” Not knowing what’s going to happen.
I think athletes now are just going off of what they’re seeing now, which is what? Police brutality. Police killing people. You haven’t seen one thing about schools closing. There’s no rec centers. You haven’t seen none of that on the news. All you see is police killing people. And if I’m sitting there watching that every day all day, I’m going to feel a certain kind of way. Like, against the police. If it was showing schools and why they shut them down and there’s no funding for this and no funding for that, you would feel a certain way about that too. But that’s not what they’re putting out there.
He also shares what happened the night he talked with 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick immediately following his bold decision to sit during the national anthem.
He reached out to me that night. And I’m watching and I’m like, “OK.” Like, “What’s next?” In a very respectful way, he was like, “I took this step and, you know, just wanted to get your thoughts on what’s happening.” And I said, “Well, you’re courageous.” I said, “You just showed a lot of courage in what you just did, but now is the hard part because you have to keep it going. So if that was just a one-time thing, then you’re f*cked. But now you keep it going and be articulate and elaborate on why you’re doing it, and be educated and knowledgeable of why you’re doing it so when people ask, you can stand up for what you believe in and really let them hear why.”
Read his interview in full, here.