NBA Q&A: Carmelo Anthony on Racism

CA: I said the same thing. But I never stepped out there and said anything about the Donald Sterling piece because at the end of the day, you realized that it’s bigger than you. It’s like police brutality with the system. The system is broken. It’s a bigger entity than you are. Right? So you’re dealing with something much more powerful that kind of controls you in every sense that you can imagine. The way I would have done it if it was close to me is I wouldn’t have come out. That was the opportunity right there: “I’m not playing.” At that point it wouldn’t have been about basketball at all. That was a race issue right there. That was where you could have put your foot down and said, “No, we’re not — we’re not having it.”

HB: Don Yee, Tom Brady’s agent, said players have no idea how much power they’ve got, that they could bring this entire system down and create something for themselves if they wanted to. If I just move over into just the system of sports, is there something different and something better to be made?

CA: I think the resources are there. I think we’re powerful enough. I can only speak for basketball players. We’re powerful enough to, if we wanted to, create our own league. But everybody would have to be willing to do that. You have to be willing to say, “This is what I’m going to do. I’m supporting this right here.” Because at the end of the day, the athletes are the league. Without the athletes, there’s no league. Without us, there’s no them. And they don’t think like that. They say, “We’re your main source of income, so you’re going to need me before I need you.” I think you just have to be willing to do that. You have to be willing to make that move, and, you know, strength comes in numbers. If you don’t have those numbers, it’s not going to work.

The people in the position of power understand now more than ever that some of the athletes are just as powerful as them. And that’s the scary part. To know that, “Somebody I’m paying, you know, is just as powerful as me. We don’t want that.”

HB: I make the argument that in the 21st century, the black athlete is the most influential black professional in the United States. There is a history, a heritage of outspokenness. Yet through about 30 years, the mid-’70s up until the late ’90s, you didn’t really hear a lot. So people seem surprised when they hear you talking now.

CA: It was about building that corporation. And it was about building the perfect athlete. Michael Jordan came in, and he transcended the game to another level on the court and off the court. So everybody wanted that typical athlete, that clean-cut athlete suit. Politically correct. Never spoke outside of his message. When you had athletes who spoke out during that era that you’re talking about, the ones that did speak out got ousted. It was, “Put the muzzle on your face.”

HB: It’s the evolution of the athlete. Now it’s athlete as an individual corporation. But the difference is you have every other ethnicity out there, they get to be proud of what they are. You hear in media, so many writers going, “Well, and I don’t want to be a black writer. I just want to be a writer.” And I’m like, “Well, why don’t you get to be both?”

CA: Because it’s not accepted. We’re the only culture, we’re the only race that doesn’t have our own. For us, what we have? We have the ‘hood. So there’s no resources in the ‘hood, other than drugs. Either you have a good jump shot or you selling crack rock. These other races out there, they got their own neighborhoods. They got their own community, their own stores. They support one another. And we don’t.

HB: And where does that come from? That comes from the fact that we have separated education from community. My neighborhood in Dorchester, in Boston, in Roxbury — any black family that had any prospects, they left. Why? For the schools.

CA: Because there’s no resources.

HB: And when stability’s gone, what’s left?

CA: Nothing. Hopelessness.

HB: Yet you hear this cognitive dissonance when Baltimore hits and people say, “Why are they burning down their own neighborhoods?” without realizing they aren’t ours.

CA: That’s right. We don’t own anything. That Rite Aid? That isn’t ours. And that’s what I’m talking about when I say it’s all part of something bigger. These times, they’re crazy. It’s not about the one thing. The system is broken. You hear people saying, “Justice or else.” I think you’re starting to see what “or else” looks like.

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