By Will Stevenson
What a summer we’ve had in sports right? LeBron leads the Cavs back to beat the Warriors, Free Agency starts off with Timofey Mozgov and then…. Durant joins the Warriors and Dwayne Wade leaves South Beach to join his hometown Chicago Bulls. Ben Simmons is showing off his passing vision in Summer League, along with Buddy Hield putting on great shooting performances. Tim Duncan retired. Portugal won the Euro Cup. NFL training camps are gearing up for the upcoming season. Giancarlo Stanton put on a show at the Home Run Derby last night. And Lance Stephenson is still a free agent. I’ve been scouring the internet for the past few weeks, looking at social media websites, posts, comments, shares, videos and interviews; but nothing have taken my interest in the sports world like Carmelo Anthony.
Now the way our minds work, words and phrases have certain attachments to them: Head Coach, Black Coach, Domestic Violence, Franchise Quarterback, Dan Snyder, America’s Team, Defense Wins Championships, Playoffs!!, NFL Substance Abuse Policy, The Baseball Steroid Era, etc. If your mind works the way most do, an image/feeling/thought/reservation came to your mind for each word or phrase. It is necessary to address our schemas we have for athletes, because it directly affects how we interface with them and/or about them. When I say “Carmelo Anthony”, what are the things that would come to mind? When we think of NBA Stars, many things come to the forefront; Overpaid, lack of community, greedy, hardworking, winner, selfish, spotlight, privileged, famous, red carpet, rich. It’s ok, for now. It’s alright if these emotions arise in you when you speak of an athlete, but also remember they are human as we are. When Carmelo Anthony made his post on Instagram in solidarity of the citizens murdered by police and police murdered by citizens, this wasn’t his first time standing for the cause against police shootings.
Before we dive into his post, why don’t we discuss the athlete’s role in speaking out on police shootings. Notice there wasn’t a mention of speaking against the act or defending the police, the only thing needed to do is converse. Do we want our athletes involved in such matters? We seem to be reluctant at the notion a multi-millionaire basketball player would speak of injustice, because, well, they are rich, and we are not. We are reluctant to care whether they have an opinion on the matter because we just want to know if they are winners enough on the court as if that would validate their personal life and beliefs. You may think that is not accurate, but we are funny that way. For reasons that are plentiful, we hold their million-dollar contracts against them as if somehow having money disqualifies an individual from speaking out about injustices in our communities. That would be as absurd as the unemployed and homeless condemning us fans for the money we make.
The most disconnect can be traced to the simple fact that athletes have coined a skill and have profited from that skill. Athletes are just as we are, the difference is their market is paying them much more, and that is exclusive to professional sports. There may be some who read this that make more money than a practice squad player, or Russell Wilson before his contract, and I would assume that your income does not disqualify you from being involved in your community as well as speaking out on issues in this world.
In a world of internet activists and cyber-bullies, it’s fairly easy to tell when people are real with what they post versus trolling. Social Media has become the gathering waterhole for keyboard gangsters worldwide. With that being said, it has created an avenue for athletes to reach fans with a click of a button. I did the pleasure of reading some of the responses to Carmelo Anthony’s post and as you would imagine, the hate vs the truth was out in full force. When it comes to athletes speaking on such issues as these, we bring our own thoughts and emotions to the table. We also have our own thoughts about who they are or who we think they are, so it skews our ability to look at them as human, and objectively. We can literally go through our timelines right now and come to an agreement that we do not agree on police brutality and their treatment of humans. It’s a subject in which people choose sides, draw lines, and defend their point until death. Carmelo’s post was targeting players like himself to use their platform to evoke change in this broken system. From my end, Carmelo sounds like many of us in this world; We know the system is broken, we know they didn’t change its own their own, but just because that is so we should not sit on our hands and continue the same process we’ve been doing since the 60s. There are things that are not working for us so we have to go back to the drawing board to see what will. Remember when the police were outraged at the former St. Louis Rams for their protest? Well, the Minnesota Lynx wore shirts as well. Some police, as well as fans were outraged at the team for wearing them and left the game. More and more athletes are posting solidarity posts like Melo’s post.
So what do we want? Do we want our athletes to just entertain us? Do we not want them to speak? Do we want them to be reprimanded for their “free speech”? If that was the case, we would be up for review from our own personal posts on Sports Elite, Facebook, Instagram and so on. We want our athletes to speak, but only if it is in alignment with what we believe is truth. Carmelo never said he had an answer, but just because you don’t have an answer does not mean collaboration with others can’t develop a few ideas. He wants to do something, and he wants his other comrades to join in to do the same. It sounds like a positive thing to do…
The one consequence of outspoken athletes is Curt Schilling, Isaiah Crowell, or any other athlete that will say or post something that we may not agree with. Every free speech has a consequence and for our athletes, that can come at a steep price. Carmelo’s post was praised, but Isaiah Crowell’s was not. Even with Crowell’s post of an officer being killed by a civilian, the responses to that post were… Usual. Nothing more usual than the Police Dept. threatening him to donate to the Dallas PD or they would pull their security from the stadium. Police are humans too, they have feelings, but we didn’t see them lament after the Tamir Rice shooting. This is what happens when our athletes give their opinions, although rash at times with the instant access of social media, we respond with praise, doubt and hatred. It will always be complicated to speak out on such issues, because they never know how it will be taken. With every glaring issue, each issue has a group that has taken a stand, and it leaves little wiggle room. There’s no way to be praised by all when taking a stand for a political issue, for you are bound to upset someone, but in the case of Carmelo Anthony, he decided once again to put himself out there for us all to see.
Unless you only associate Carmelo Anthony with losing and being selfish.
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