Two days ago Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony made a brief statement in an Instagram post on the troubles in his native Baltimore. It was a nice gesture, but one made by celebrities all over the country.
Clearly this was an important issue for Melo -- we didn't realize quite how important until Thursday afternoon, a CNN reporter caught a glimpse of him marching in protest:
Carmelo Anthony in Baltimore with protesters. @AaronMMaybin pic.twitter.com/btCykiWxlR— BmoreFab (@BmoreFab) April 30, 2015
This is legit by Melo man https://t.co/8sPXPy9bLW— Please stay Goran (@MiamiHeatMind) April 30, 2015
I went to high school in Harford County, Maryland -- a 30-minute drive and a world away from Melo's native West Baltimore. Most of my classmates still live in the state; they have good jobs, families and they live and die with the Orioles and (especially) the Ravens. When it comes to sports, Baltimore is their city. And believe me, the HOT TAKES have been flying on Facebook this past week. Some of it is nuanced, much of it is too disgusting to repeat.
When it comes to supporting a cause, there's a big difference between sending a check to earthquake relief in Nepal and actually marching with black leaders on the streets of Baltimore. Melo is in many ways the quintessential modern, brand-obsessed athlete. He's signed with the marketing king himself, Michael Jordan, and makes no bones about his desire to conquer the business world beyond basketball. This is going to hurt his brand in ways that will send chills down the spine of most Michael Jordan disciples. People are going to get mad about this -- wealthy, sneaker-buying people. The stupid "Stop Snitchin'" incident will be rehashed. He will once again be called an "anti-police activist." And Melo knows it. Yet the man still followed his conscience.
Carmelo Anthony is not a hero, but he is a man of integrity. He's a public figure who is willing stand with the community that helped raise him and face the scorn of wealthy, powerful people. That is a rare thing these days. I couldn't be more proud today to call him a member of the New Knicks.