Most Americans are still trying to process the horror of the last few days, from the killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by cops in Louisiana and Minnesota, to the ambush that killed five police officers in Texas.
But New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony has done enough processing. He is ready to take action, and he wants his fellow athletes to join him.
In a passionate post on Instagram, Anthony paid homage to the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcom X, and Muhammad Ali, and said that he was willing to lead a charge against “the system.”
“These politicians have to step up and fight for change. I’m calling for all my fellow ATHLETES to step up and take charge,” he wrote. “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 [who’s] going to look at us crazy.”
Anthony cautioned that we “have to be smart about what we are doing though,” and stressed that retaliating against police officers with more violence was not the answer.
The photo he included in his statement was from 1967, when a collection of top black athletes — including Jim Brown and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — held a news conference to support Muhammad Ali’s refusal to be drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War.
LeBron James, one of Anthony’s closest friends, shared Anthony’s post with a message that it was “on point.”
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Since sharing his post Friday morning, Anthony has already received support from Gabrielle Union, actress and the wife of NBA star Dwyane Wade, tennis legend Boris Becker, WNBA star Chiney Ogwumike, and NFL player Andrew Hawkins, among others.
Carmelo’s wife, LaLa Anthony, has also been active on social media the past few days. On Thursday, she joined the peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in New York City and posted a photo depicting a difficult conversation parents have to have with their black sons about “coming home alive.” The Anthonys have a nine-year-old son, Kiyan Carmelo Anthony.
This is not the first time that Anthony has been outspoken about issues close to the Black Lives Matter movement. Last April, Anthony — who was raised in West Baltimore — joined a march through the streets of Baltimore to protest the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of the police.
“This is my community,” Anthony said at the time. “This is not just my community — it’s everybody’s community. It’s America’s community. So for me to come back here and be part of a community where I grew up at, and really get a chance to kind of talk to the people and get a feel for what’s going on… I had to come. It was only right for me to come down here.”
In December, he spoke out against gun violence the day after his Knicks teammate, Cleanthony Early, was shot in the knee. He also appeared in a NBA PSA about ending gun violence, which was a collaboration between the league, Everytown for Gun Safety, and director Spike Lee.
“You can go around the corner and get a gun, you can go to this person and get a gun — it’s just too easy, too accessible,” Anthony said. “And it’s going to be like that until we decide, as people, to fight against that.”
The NBA — both the league itself and its athletes — has been fairly vocal about issues of social justice, race, and gun violence in recent years. The NBA has a close partnership with “My Brother’s Keeper,” an initiative launched by President Barack Obama to help align boys of color with mentors in their communities.
When Eric Garner was choked to death by a policemen in Staten Island while he was selling cigarettes, NBA players such as James, Derrick Rose, and Kyrie Irving all wore “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts during pre-game warm-ups. The NBA did not fine them, even though it was technically against the league’s dress code. In 2012, James and his teammates on the Miami Heat took a photo with hoodies on and hands in their pockets to offer support for Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager shot by George Zimmerman while he was merely walking through a neighborhood.
Anthony even invited Martin’s family to Madison Square Garden and met privately with them in the Knicks locker room before a game.
“I need your voices to be heard. We can demand change,” Anthony said on Instagram. “We just have to be willing to. THE TIME IS NOW. IM all in. Take Charge. Take Action. DEMAND CHANGE.”