Like Father, Like Son: Carmelo Anthony Follows in the Footsteps of His Father’s Young Lords Activism

In light of the police violence that has rattled black communities in the United States, a problem that has most recently taken the lives of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, NBA star Carmelo Anthony is using his platform to advocate for change. Issuing a call to action, the current New York Knick and two-time gold medal Olympian has established himself as an activist.

In a message that appeared in The New York Daily News (a shorter version is available on his Instagram account), Anthony wrote about putting fear aside to tackle political issues. He argued that different tactics need to be used in order to get results, and he states that the system is broken. Anthony argues that athletes should forget about how people will look at them and about the possibility of losing endorsements for their activism, considering how lucrative those deals can be. Sometimes athletes earn more from endorsements than the contracts they sign with professional teams. In this case, he argued that money is not what’s most important.

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

A photo posted by @carmeloanthony on

This is different from the oft-apolitical stance other athletes take in difficult times, Michael Jordan being the most prominent example. Jordan allegedly said that he wouldn’t speak against Republicans because “Republicans buy sneakers too.” In response, fellow NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar replied that Jordan was choosing “commerce over conscience.”

Because of Anthony’s history of addressing social issues, it doesn’t come as a complete surprise that he would suggest sacrificing dollar signs to do the right thing.

Anthony previously participated in a series of PSAs against gun violence featuring multiple basketball stars. He’s also been involved with his charity in Puerto Rico by building or rebuilding basketball courts for children in La Perla, San Juan, Luquillo, Bayamón, and Trujillo Alto. Anthony has also given back by gifting basketball courts to the cities where he was born and raised: Brooklyn, New York, and Baltimore, Maryland.

As the son of Puerto Rican Carmelo Iriarte, who was an activist himself and a member of the Young Lords, a passion for social justice runs in the family. The grassroots group tackled social inequality by utilizing confrontational tactics in 60s and 70s New York City. Among their initiatives, the Young Lords operated a free breakfast program for children, seized and distributed hospital equipment to the needy, and cleared neighborhoods of garbage. At the time, the state of city sanitation was a major problem. Anthony is working on a documentary about the group.

As history shows and Anthony notes in his post, social issues regarding race and violence aren’t new. Change isn’t easy, but nothing will improve without action, so kudos to Anthony for taking a stand and disregarding the potential backlash. It takes courage to do what’s right, and hopefully other powerful figures from the sports world will echo Anthony to advocate for a more just society, like activist-athletes Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have in the past.