Just over two weeks ago, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Paul stood alongside New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony on the stage of the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, all four men dressed in black tuxedos in front of thousands of athletes and fans packed into the seats to watch the 2016 ESPY’s.
On July 5th, video footage of 37-year-old Alton Sterling-an African American man in Baton Rouge, La.-surfaced, showing two police officers wrestling him to the ground in a struggle before five shots rang out, leaving Sterling lifeless on the grounds of a convenience store.
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The next day, Diamond Reynolds recorded the final moments her boyfriend’s life. 32-year-old Philando Castile was gunned down during a traffic stop by a police officer in St. Paul, Minnesota in front of his 4-year-old daughter.
The questionable and controversial killings of black men at the hands of law enforcement officers led to protests around the country, including a peaceful march in downtown Dallas, Texas on July 7 which was interrupted by gunfire. Five police officers were shot dead in an act of retaliation at the hands of Micah Xavier Johnson, who specifically targeted white citizens and white police officers.
Then came Anthony’s powerful Instagram post:
First off let me start off by saying ” All Praise Due To The Most High.” Secondly, I’m all about rallying, protesting, fighting for OUR people. Look I’ll even lead the charge, By Any Means Necessary. We have to be smart about what we are doing though. We need to steer our anger in the right direction. The system is Broken. Point blank period. It has been this way forever. Martin Luther King marched. Malcolm X rebelled. 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’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. While I don’t have a solution, and I’m pretty sure a lot of people don’t have a solution, we need to come together more than anything at this time. We need each other. These politicians have to step up and fight for change. I’m calling for all my fellow ATHLETES to step up and take charge. Go to your local officials, leaders, congressman, assemblymen/assemblywoman 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. We can’t worry about what endorsements we gonna lose or whose going to look at us crazy. I need your voices to be heard. We can demand change. We just have to be willing to. THE TIME IS NOW. IM all in. Take Charge. Take Action. DEMAND CHANGE. Peace7 #StayMe7o
“We cannot ignore the realities of the current state of America,” Anthony said to open the ESPY’s. “The events of the past week have put a spotlight on the injustice, distrust, and anger that plagues so many of us… The urgency to create change is at an all-time high.”
The NBA star and Olympian admitted that he had trouble sleeping, and that he decided to type away his concerns and thoughts in light of the recent events, adding that he felt it imperative to release a message via the award show.
This past Monday, Anthony hosted a town hall in South Central Los Angeles entitled Leadership Together: A Conversation With Our Sons and Daughters, where community leaders, NBA and WNBA Olympic athletes, police officers and approximately 80 predominately African-American and Latino teenagers came together for a closed social discussion at Challengers Boys and Girls Club. The idea behind the town hall was to address the recent nationwide tragedies, with the major topic of discussion being how black men felt scared and threatened in police presence.
The USA Basketball team postponed practice to allow players to attend, giving Anthony an unexpected turnout of fellow athletes.
“I didn’t expect the commitment from the other athletes,” Anthony said. “I thought USA Basketball and the NBA could be on board. I was doing it myself at first. I was just going to come in and have a conversation. It wasn’t going to be this big gathering or NBA town hall. It was just going to be a conversation with a couple officers, a couple of youth.”
As the discussion carried on, so did the emotion. The 200 people who filled the gymnasium were separated into groups of eight. Kids addressed their worries to the police with tears in their eyes, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. The young men were particularly fearful of their lives, while the young women worried about their brothers, uncles, fathers, and male friends.
Anthony recalled that a young man in his group had been racially profiled by the police just weeks ago, a story he referred to as “touching.”
He went on to describe the story of two girls who voiced their concerns about the police.
“And then there was another story where two young girls were catching the bus and they got off the bus and there were two guys out there that chased them into the store,” Anthony told The Undefeated. They had to stay in the bathroom, locked the bathroom and called the police. The police told them they were lying. Those types of conversations were happening.”
After the group discussions, everyone came back together, with each group having a spokesperson to speak about their experience. With the help of players such as Kevin Durant, who encouraged some kids to speak, and DeMarcus Cousins, who put his arm around a timid kid, Anthony wrapped up a successful discussion, one in which he believes can make a difference moving forward.
As he left the gym, Anthony reportedly smiled and said, “Yes, I’m proud. I’m proud.”
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