Carmelo Anthony realized one morning at about 3 a.m. after watching tragedies between the police and the community seemingly happening one after the other. At first, he thought about staying silent, but ultimately he knew that he couldn’t.
“I just stared typing,” said the New York Knicks forward. “And I was typing, I just started speaking. I spoke from the heart and the first thing that came to my mind is I have to get my athletes, my fellow athletes to step up and use their voice and use their platform in the best way they can.”
Anthony spoke Monday in Los Angeles following an event that he created to do just that – open up dialogue between law enforcement and members of the Black community.
Called “Leadership Together: A Conversation with Our Sons and Daughters,” the closed door discussion involved nearly 200 people, including LAPD officers, community leaders, members of both the USA Basketball Men’s and Women’s National Team and young people aged 13 to 23.
“It was an open forum, open dialogue and honest conversation,” Anthony said in a press conference afterwards, at L.A.’s Challengers Boys and Girls Club. “The youth really, really spoke out today about how they feel about their community, how they feel about police officers, how they feel about relationships and how we can mend those relationships. Both parties spoke. Police spoke. Youth spoke. Athletes spoke and we really got a lot of messages out of today.”
The session was also attended by members of the USA men's and women's basketball teams includiing the Cleveland Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving, the Oklahoma Thunder's Kevin Durant and the WNBA's Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever.
Anthony was praised earlier this month for addressing the shootings of unarmed black men at the ESPY Awards earlier this month, alongside fellow NBA stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul, inspired by Anthony’s revelation. “It went from an Instagram post to me getting LeBron and D-Wade and CP [Chris Paul] to open up the ESPYs, which was a big platform for us, to now, and then this. We’re just going to keep it going.”
During the event, he mentioned some of the topics that concerned the young people who had been selected to attend by the Boys and Girls Clubs of LA and the Brotherhood Crusade, a community organization. “Educating the youth, educating the people; what to do when police officers stop you. I think that kind of gets lost in translation a little bit. I don’t think our youth is educated on those things.”
Police personnel got a chance to weigh in with young people at the event as well.
“It gave us a place to talk where we actually could say things that you normally don’t get to say or hear from particularly people of that age, the youth,” said LAPD Deputy Chief William Scott. “A lot of these young folks would not have been in this room talking with police had it not been for what these athletes are doing, so that’s a tremendous benefit to this issue and to us and the city.”
Catchings also spent the morning speaking with the youth, law enforcement and community leaders and described the emotions that can surface in an encounter with police.
“I think, from a cop’s perspective too, when you walk up with a hand on your gun how it makes us feel and the fear that you automatically feel,” she said. “I think from both sides going back to the respect and going back to the perspective being able to take it from a young person’s view and knowing like, okay, how you come up to the car. One young man said, ‘Just smile…a smile goes a long way’.”
Catchings admitted there was both “tension and definitely some tears” for some of the young people who have negative opinions of the police.
Nevertheless, all parties vow to keep the conversation going. Catchings said she wants to replicate the event back in Indiana.
Anthony said more dialogue can come out when people are put in small groups, like the teams of young people, athletes and community leaders who were assembled.
“I think it’s going to take a collective effort and it’s going to take time, but we have to start by talking about it, being honest with one another – not just pointing fingers at the officers or the officers pointing the fingers at us,” he said. “I don’t think we need that. I think we need a direct dialogue with everybody.”