By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
Recent sports headlines have been dominated by an all-star NBA forward from Maryland. No, not the ‘Skins fan from Prince George’s County. Oh he’s gotten plenty of run after snubbing the Wizards, crushing dreams in Oklahoma City and inking a deal with the Golden State Warriors, the NBA’s first non-LeBron-James Evil Empire in years. Pause The Kevin Durant Chronicles for a moment; a former resident of Baltimore, the land of orange, purple and Natty Boh, stirred up far more important publicity last week.
I’m not a fan of New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony. Yes, he’s a big-time scorer who can flat out drain the orange. But he’s an obligatory defender, his effort is questionable and there’s no evidence that he makes his teammates better. One dimensional. Generally overrated. Not my cup of tea.
That’s Anthony the player. But Anthony the man and unexpected political activist? That guy has my attention. That guy has my respect. In an overwhelmingly sad week that saw police shoot and kill Philando Castile and Alton Sterling and Micah Johnson kill five officers in Dallas, Anthony took to social media to express his outrage. Here are his paraphrased thoughts (the post is worth reading in its entirety):
“We need to steer our anger in the right direction…towards the system. Shooting 11 cops and killing 5 WILL NOT work…we need to come together more than anything at this time. We need each other. I’m calling on my fellow athletes to step up and take charge. There’s NO more sitting back and being afraid of tackling and addressing political issues anymore. THE TIME IS NOW. DEMAND CHANGE.”
When confronted with domestic or international turmoil, I often turn to Fareed Zakaria’s book “The Post-American World” for solace. In it, Zakaria argues that, by historical comparison, we occupy a peaceful world, one whose cultural and economic interconnectivity largely mitigates dangerous political discord and ill-intended personal or national ambition. The evidence is convincing: We’ve achieved unprecedented levels of trade and economic prosperity; cultural barriers are reduced by travel and information exchange, and; large scale war between superpowers, the kind that results in massive casualties and global instability, doesn’t exist.
Still, with alarmingly frequent terrorist attacks and senseless killings, it is difficult to remain hopeful in humanity’s grand earthly coexistence, despite Zakaria’s logical, fact-based counterpoints. Human nature as it is, it seems that stereotypes will corrupt the small-minded, greed will infect the ambitious and religious zealotry will distort the worship of a god into an instrument of pure evil.
The tendency for decent, loving and well-intended individuals is to respond to social calamity by controlling what they can – personal attitudes and actions and the world view of youths they influence – and steadfastly remaining part of the solution. The development of strategies that promote the world’s safety, progressive international relationships and the infrastructure for social fellowship and equality is deferred to a nation’s leaders, a term often synonymous with politicians.
Given the scope of today’s challenges, that is mostly an understandable and defensible reaction. For what happened in Minnesota, Louisiana and Texas during America’s Independence week, it isn’t enough. The world has a common opponent who is terrorizing free, peaceful people around the globe. Yet here we are in America, the allegedly most diverse, open and tolerant nation in the world, struggling with senseless internal violence. We have to demand better of ourselves, resist shameful stereotypes and appreciate and promote our common humanity.
That is part of Anthony’s point. The added layer is that while sports is a fun, joyous reprieve from the ugliness of everyday life, there comes a time when it should be more. Anthony’s fed up and willing to use his NBA platform to be a change agent; he’s challenging colleagues to do the same. We should all applaud his courageous activism and stand behind him, Knicks fan or not. Otherwise we’re just individuals left rereading books or returning to other familiar outlets to soothe the pain of the latest crisis and retain hope in our flawed species. For me, Anthony’s crusade is well-time; I need more than Zakaria’s wisdom to maintain faith in this world.