Carmelo Anthony: “Athletes today are scared to make Muhammad Ali type statements.”

Doing what we do at The Starting Five, whether it’s editing, reporting or writing, there is one priority…to get it right. I know personally some athletes have become hesitant to speak out whenever some have something authentic to say because some fear an omnipresent backlash affecting their bottom line. This is simply absurd because athletes have unique perspectives on life just like anyone else.  Hypothetical but some of you will say something similar to the following: “Well athletes are representing something bigger or I don’t pay my hard earned money to hear an athlete speak on anything more than the game. They are just athletes and should just shut up and play ball. If I want to hear politics I’ll turn on C-Span or talk radio. Athletes should not bite the hands that feed them because they are making millions to simply play a kid’s game while I’m out here struggling working 4,080 hours a week just to be broke.”

Well maybe you should have picked up a basketball instead of a tire iron. Athletes are getting paid market value just like the owners who sign their checks or actors in Hollywood or musical artists in Detroit…and yes shock jocks on talk radio.  If they have something on their mind, why should they be afraid to speak? Think about the conversations you have and ask is there a filter for your words? Carmelo Anthony is one to say what is usually on his mind within reason and at the Battle of I-95 (Melo had 31 points and 17 rebounds in the Baltimore’s 131-122 loss to Team Philly), he took the opportunity to do just that.

Michael Tillery: Carmelo I don’t know if anyone asked you this but the fans are wondering why there isn’t such of a…NBA presence…NBA players coming out and speaking on this issue (NBA lockout) publicly like in the NFL…like in other situations.

Carmelo Anthony: “We’re not allowed. We’re not allowed. I mean everybody has their own opinion…you hear people talk here and there…but nobody don’t really come out and say what they really want to say. That’s just the society we live in.

Athletes today are scared to make Muhammad Ali type statements.

Carmelo’s quote (I begin around the 2:00 minute mark) along with a follow up question regarding barnstorming events seen here:

I asked Carmelo this because during the NFL lockout, players had more of a public presence (in union solidarity) led by Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. I get a lot of questions why NBA players aren’t taking the same advantage.

There are no pay checks currently hitting the bank accounts of any NBA player for this is a lockout. I applaud Carmelo for speaking his mind and I’ve said many times over the years if athletes aren’t allowed to speak we as reporters will not get what is true to their collective minds and everything will be reported via athletes’ social media accounts.

That’s not cool. We can do better. It’s about the kids right? Is it really? It should be.

Hey…are you understanding this? Yeah you. Why is your face all twisted up? This shouldn’t be an issue but everyone should ponder why it is. Is it simply an employee/employer issue or does something more deeper come to mind?

Ali was one of the more provocative voices in much more difficult times but are any athletes of note saying anything currently?


It’s why I wrote the Black Athlete Today piece in The Nation. I don’t want fans who love the games athletes play to take any of this as a disrespectful slap in the face. You probably do work hard but to hate an athlete simply for advantages afforded because of their distinct abilities is not the way to do this either. Why should their elite talents be seen as something bad? This is really not about fans because the inner-workings of professional sports are a lot more intricate than most realize. Yes we are in critical financial straits and to see billionaire owners and millionaire players “fighting” over money might seem outlandish to some but ask yourself…where should the money generated go? How would you break it down?

I would love to elicit a discussion and as long as the debate remains civil, a conversation could go a long way for everyone involved.

Does Mike Vick have a point about the hits he takes while flags aren’t thrown…considering the backfields of other quarterbacks look like a bunch of daisies…when they’re simply breathed on? If he’s frustrated, he should speak out right?

I want basketball and the alternative league piece (NPA or National Players Association) I penned in July was written with the lockout in mind and also to show readers there is a lot more money earned than what the players take home.

I’ll have the Battle for I-95 game report a little later.

16 Responses to “Carmelo Anthony: “Athletes today are scared to make Muhammad Ali type statements.””

  1. David Aldridge, while disagreeing with the NPA concept, gives me (and the site) a very much appreciated shout out.

  2. Ron Glover says:

    That was cool of him.

  3. Temple3 says:

    I’ve always like DA.

    Also, I think he’s right about the implications of making public statements siding with the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and against the Vietnam War vs. discussing your own labor negotiations. It’s always good to consider the historical perspective. Still, it’s worth juxtaposing the tactics and strategy of the NBA vs. the NFL. Moreover, the NFL is a majority Black league, but the faces of the labor movement were Brees, Manning, Brady, and even Jeff Saturday and Kevin Mawae (to a lesser extent).

    So, the modern equivalent of US-born Black athletes going to Ali’s level would require that they first align themselves with a Black organization rather than, or in addition to, a labor organization. Secondly, that organization would have to have a platform and an institutional practice that was endorsed and identifiable by Black folk on the street. There really aren’t too many candidates.

    These athletes really don’t need to TELL the world what’s inside their head. If they want to do something important, they should just build the institutions that create the change they want to see in the world. How much time and effort would it take for these guys to collaborate and build a set of interconnected TECH labs in 10 or 15 cities around the country charged with teaching kids and others how to use tech and developing innovative ideas to generate revenue along a 10-year timeline? Seed ’em with about $5M, get matching funds from corps of their choice, foreign govt’s, the US govt, other philanthropists — roll it up at about $25M; lease and remodel existing commercial space and BOOM!!!

    Done deal…then who cares what they have to SAY…just show and prove. Build it and they will come.

  4. Yes. Excellent comment. I in no way could have said it better.

  5. michelle says:

    Melo calls it as he sees it!!! Good read Miz…..

  6. Miranda says:

    OK, NOW I see why Carmelo was such a trending topic on Google today!

  7. You know me Miranda. I gotta get it while I’m in there.

  8. GrandNubian says:

    Perhaps they are “not allowed” to make such statements because it’s a contract stipulation? Afterall, David Stern is a liar, I mean lawyer. 🙂

    Or, perhaps i’m reaching too far out in left field. What sayest thou? 🙂

  9. Origin says:

    GN who knows what he meant by that. But I know Carmello made a similar comment to Farrakhan saying that Stern told him not to meet or speak with him.

    Great comments from Temple and DA.

  10. Matthew Fudge says:

    For most black athletes (and athletes, in general), speaking out just isn’t worth the backlash. Derek Jeter won’t voice a controversial opinion until he retires, watch.

  11. HarveyDent says:

    I’m always of the opinion that if you believe in something strongly then you need to say it and own up to it. The thing is that in our soundbite culture quotes are chopped and edited to make many speakers look as stupid as possible so many people of note will choose to keep their mouths quiet and unfortunately many of athletes of color choose that route. Not everyone is an activist or a leader and I can respect that.

    DA wasn’t too convincing to me though as to his reasoning why the players can’t start their own league. Looks like they’re doing that right now with all this barnstorming. Starting a league can be intricate but it’s not impossible and it is doable if the players feel empowered because it wasn’t like it was high-priced corporate attorneys and accountants who started these leagues in the first place. Stop waiting for permission and do the damned thing.

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