Carmelo Anthony And The Influence Of The Black Athlete


Carmelo Anthony challenges athletes to step up and fight for justice. Do black athletes understand how powerful their influence can be?

I pulled into my circle in the Tall Trees housing projects in Essex, Maryland; a community in Baltimore County right outside of Baltimore City. It was your typical housing project scene: children scattered across a rusty playground with broken swings and rickety slides; different genres of music representing the culture of the residing families blasting through barred windows; and minorities, most poor, some grimy and all grinding to find the best means of support their miseducation can afford them.

A cop pulled behind me. His lights and a shortened siren sound cued me to pull over. He approached the side of my car window with his hand on his gun. Simultaneously, another cop car pulled in front of my car. Three more cops approached my vehicle and stood with their hands glued to the handle of their guns. The first cop looked in and told me that he pulled me over for not wearing my seat belt.

He was right, but was it necessary to surround me with four cops for a routine traffic stop? No, he needed more.

He was right, but was it necessary to surround me with four cops for a routine traffic stop? No, he needed more.

Another cop car pulled to the rear left side of my car and another to the front left side of my car; they boxed me in. The cop asked for my license and registration and handed it off to one of the other cops to run a check. He then asks me if he can search my car.  “For what?” I asked. “You pulled me over for a seat belt.” “Are you hiding something sir,” he kind of grumbled to me.

I snickered, “No, but this seems a bit much for a seat belt don’t you think?”

The cop muttered some ill-fitting words to which I really didn’t pay attention. Instead of paying attention, I flashed back to 1987, when I lived in Utica, NY, and two detectives battered my mother up the front steps of our apartment. They raided my home to search and seize drugs they presumed hidden at our place.

My mother demanded a search warrant. Instead of receiving one, she was manhandled and detained. In my peripheral, I could see a cop inspecting the backseat of my car through the rear passenger window; it triggered me back to the future. In a matter of milliseconds, I calculated my position.

“I’ve lived in Maryland just two months,” I thought. “I have tags from New York, I’m new to the area, surrounded by six cops and I’m black.” I knew the routine, so I complied.

They ripped through my car, searching every nook, every cranny and found nothing. They let me go on a warning. It didn’t matter, because with years of anger garnered from police harassment and brutality passed down to me from my mother, my father, extended family, friends and my community, letting me pass on a ticket couldn’t mask the pain, anger and aggression that I felt for myself and those who came before me.

My experience was less than mild compared to what many black men experience every day. I’ll refrain from digging deep into the historical influences and traditions that plague our legal and judicial systems, resulting in a disproportionate amount blacks and Hispanics being targeted, harassed, arrested and imprisoned. I don’t need to go into it; you’ve witnessed it and you might have experienced it.

Living between Brooklyn, New York and Baltimore, Maryland, two cities that have recently felt the impact of police brutality, Carmelo Anthony is challenging athletes to become involved in a political manner.

Anthony wrote in an Instagram post:

"“We have to put pressure on the people in charge in order to get this thing we call JUSTICE right. A march doesn’t work.  We’ve tried that.  I’ve tried that. A couple social media post/tweet doesn’t work. We’ve all tried that. That didn’t work. Shooting 11 cops and killing 5 WILL NOT work.”"

Anthony is no stranger to protesting. He participated in the Baltimore marches promoting justice for Freddie Gray—a 25-year-old young man who died after suffering a spinal injury while in the custody of the Baltimore Police.

Plenty of athletes have made statements through social media and even through peaceful public protests. LeBron James posted a photo of Miami Heat players wearing hooded sweatshirts to protest the Trayvon Martin murder, but Anthony believes athletes need to do more.

"“I’m calling for all my fellow ATHLETES to step up and take charge. Go to your local officials, leaders, congressman, assemblymen/assembly woman and demand change. There’s NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore. Those days are long gone. We have to step up and take charge.”"

I believe Anthony is right, but I’m not sure athletes of today truly understand the depth of their influence, especially in the black community.

To a child surviving in a destitute home, consumed by a community that has succumbed to poverty, pain, crime and depression, the black athlete represents hope. The black athlete has succeeded in crossing over, towing the line between the inner-city street mentality and the corporate world of big business.

To a child surviving in a destitute home, consumed by a community that has succumbed to poverty, pain, crime and depression, the black athlete represents hope.

In the black athlete, a black child sees himself, his brother, sister, best friend or neighbor, and many times, the athlete is actually that—one who survived the community and rose above the oppression.

Black athletes are lauded in the community, even before they’ve become famous. Drug dealers and gang members protect them, steering them the opposite way when trouble is on the horizon. Barbershop goers brag, business owners post newspaper clippings, and young children admire in adoration.

The community bands together, lifting these athletes to reach new heights. In so many of these communities, the athlete is a symbol of pride in an otherwise pride-less community.

For many young black men, whose fathers are vacant for reasons ranging from imprisonment to being absent to death, black male athletes are an example of how a man should live. These young men mimic more than just an athlete’s moves on the court or the field.

They mimic his work ethic, his lifestyle, his personality, his character, and yes, even his willingness to stand up and advocate for justice.

If you’re an athlete, especially a black athlete who was raised in the type of environment that is subject to the transgressions that led to this discussion, I hope you have an idea of the depth of your influence. The community raised you; it helped you survive in an environment that leaves many living on hope and not much else.

Like it or not, the community and its people expect and need you to stand up and fight. If you stay quiet, you’re teaching our youth to keep quiet and watch while injustices inflame our community, cities and country.

One of your leaders, Carmelo Anthony, understands the power of his influence. Follow his lead.

must read: Carmelo Anthony calls on stars to demand political change

You have a voice and, as much as I hate to bring this up, you make money for the city in which you entertain, so your voice, your involvement, and your advocacy, especially when banded together will go further than you ever imagined.