Speak Up or Lose Your Privileges

NBA players are a mixed bag when it comes to social activism and voicing their outrage. Some notable big stars are mute. They don’t speak out about what they have seen. We discuss what they owe the world.

Carmelo Anthony wrote a very powerful and thought provoking piece, outlining in detail his feelings about what has been going on the past few days and what has been going on seemingly for a lifetime. Recount the most memorable thing he said and are you surprised is was Carmelo saying it?

Valerie Morales:   He began by saying the system is broken. The system isn’t broken. That implies it was whole once upon a time. Murder by police is the historical truth of black men in this country from slavery on down. What is different now is video and social media. Images and interpretations take seconds to connect strangers to one another. I liked when he said marching won’t solve this problem. This is an institutional racism problem so he’s right. What marching and peaceful protests and vigils do is allow us to share our grief with one another. We can strategize on how to be better, we can speak truth to power but we need power to be on our side.

C.J. Hampshire :  It feels like a loop. It’s been seven years since Oscar Grant was murdered by police on BART. All of us can talk about where we were when this happened and when that happened. But Carmelo Anthony isn’t ordinary. He is a public figure and so what he says versus what we say is always going to be elevated more. I wasn’t surprised. Carmelo is emotional and he’s from an urban area. I thought he was especially on target when he said athletes are the ones that can be the center of this. It used to be that way but money and image has anesthetized it for athletes. They have lost touch with their own community.

Mallory Stith-Wheat: I wasn’t surprised it was Carmelo. He’s always been pretty open, not in a combative way but in a this is how I feel way. Carmelo, by speaking out, has nothing to lose. He is constantly downgraded by how he plays, and he is frequently called selfish. This was a very unselfish thing. My favorite was “Shooting 11 cops and killing 5 WILL NOT work.” For people of color the police engender mixed emotions. There are thousands of black people killed in black neighborhoods by black people and the police are the lifeline to getting justice. And then there is police bullying and intimidation.

Brendan Gillespie:  The money angle seemed to sum up the athlete’s dilemma. He talked about not caring about endorsements. Athletes, black athletes in particular, are stereotyped as only caring about money and so he was quick to pull that scab off. Carmelo is the perfect spokesperson. He’s a superstar. He plays in an urban area. He’s been in the national spotlight since college.

In the past couple of days Steph Curry has been getting criticism for saying absolutely nothing of consequence. If you look at his Twitter feed it’s all about water.  Is the criticism fair?

Mallory:  Yes. He is the face of the league. It was just revealed that he sold more jerseys than anyone else. We don’t mind the money if you produce which he has these last couple of years. But with that comes responsibility. Otherwise he comes off as a money whore.

Brendan:  It’s the old Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods strategy. But the difference is social media. When Michael Jordan refused to openly support Harvey Gantt’s bid for Congress, making him the first black southern senator from North Carolina, he didn’t have to face the wrath of social media. He could be in the shadows. Today’s superstar athletes are going to get called out if they can’t align themselves with human rights violations. They have to acknowledge our public suffering. And all these athletes just using a hashtag. Stop. Say something meaningful. Inspire us. We are hurting.

Valerie:  This didn’t endear Steph to many in the black community where Steph has always been taken as a not really one of us star. His white media love, his upper class background, his perimeter game has made many black NBA diehards a little suspicious. His absence of anything, not even a hashtag on Twitter, while he is selling water, seems a little tone deaf.

C.J.:  Steph’s problem is that he and his wife are always on social media. They are always in the public eye. They always have something to say. And now they are silent. You have to wonder why.

Before Carmelo, Bradley Beal was very strong in relating with his Twitter followers about his anger and the necessity of the Black Lives Matter movement. He had multiple conversations and was, frankly, persuasive and logical. Beal just signed a max deal that many think was an overpay. But on Twitter, it was Bradley Beal hurt black man, not Bradley Beal millionaire athlete. Is he the template for how athletes need to use social media when instances of violence, assault, racism and sorrow are part of the nation’s conscience?

Brendan:  Yes and what Beal showed is that character rises to the top. He felt something, he communicated it and the Wizards were not involved. He was a man.

Valerie:  Beal was outstanding. He just got paid. The traditional thinking is when athletes get paid their social conscience dumbs down. But it wasn’t about that. He was tired of the injustice. What I thought was great about what Beal did was the continuing conversations and telling those who didn’t like him saying Black Lives Matter to unfollow him.

C.J.:  I don’t think all athletes need to respond the way Beal did. His response showed how much of a stakeholder he is with what is going on with black men and the police. He was extremely frustrated.  He has great communication skills that he put on display when he went back and forth with followers. But all players are not like that. My personal gripe is you live in this world. Part of the reason you have what you have is because fans financially make it possible by going to games, buying your sh*t and watching you on television. But when it is our turn, our needing you- there is a lot of silence.

Mallory:  It was so refreshing to read through Beal’s timeline because he was educating. Shooting black men is wrong. Killing the police is wrong. Hate should not be tolerated on any level. And Black Lives Does Matter. What made it even more powerful is that Beal isn’t the best player on his team. He has never been an All-Star. Shade was thrown his way because of the money. He stepped around all of those narratives and said what was the truth. Carmelo will get the attention, but it was Bradley Beal who was the first to put his reputation on the line in order to tell the truth.

So bc I say Black Lives Matter: 1. I don’t think ALL  LIVES MATTER  2. I’m in favor of cops being killed? Some people are ignorant af. The issue at hand regards my race and I have every right to speak on it!  If you don’t liked it, it’s a [big] UNFOLLOW button on the top of my page! Saying all lives matter is like saying we all need to air to breathe!!! Killing a cop is no better than a cop taking a life! Innocent black lives are being taken by those sworn to protect and serve, not murder! When does it come to an end? And you wonder why people rage? We aren’t getting justice, just more body counts! People are getting sick of this [stuff]. So yes, Black Lives Matter!  (Bradley Beal)

The system is broken. Point blank period. It has been this way forever. Martin Luther King marched. Malcom X marched. Muhammad Ali literally fought for US. Our anger should be towards the system. If the system doesn’t change we will continue to turn on the TVs and see the same thing. We have to put the pressure on the people in charge in order to get this thing we call JUSTICE right. A march doesn’t work. We tried that. I tried that. A couple social media post/tweets doesn’t work. We’ve tried that. That didn’t work. Shooting 11 cops and killing 5 WILL NOT work. We need to come together more than anything. We need each other. 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. We can’t worry about endorsements we gonna lose or whose going to look at us crazy. We can demand change.  We just have to be willing to. THE TIME IS NOW. (Carmelo  Anthony)