The NBA has announced the five finalists for the inaugural Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award. Of the five players selected, Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony was named.
Anthony, along with Harrison Barnes, Tobias Harris, Jrue Holiday, and Juan Toscano-Anderson, are competing for an award that recognizes a player for pursuing social justice and advancing Abdul-Jabbar’s mission to empower, engage, and assist historically marginalized or systematically disadvantaged groups.
Anthony has used his platform as a pro athlete to bring change to those close to him. He founded the Carmelo Anthony Foundation early in his career as a vehicle for social reform through outreach programs and disaster relief initiatives.
“Carmelo Anthony has been unabashedly vocal on how systemic oppression, racism and police brutality not only dehumanizes Black people but prohibits the progress needed for generations of Black people to thrive and progress as a community,” the NBA said in a statement.
The 10-time All-Star has been about the action for almost 20 years. He helped establish the Social Change Fund, which includes Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul, aimed at supporting critical and timely issues within the Black community. Such as access to voting, education, employment, housing, and representation in leadership.
“I think the resources are there,” Anthony told ESPN on the power of athletes. “I think we're powerful enough. I can only speak for basketball players. We're powerful enough to, if we wanted to, create our own league. But everybody would have to be willing to do that. You have to be willing to say, 'This is what I'm going to do. I'm supporting this right here.' Because at the end of the day, the athletes are the league. Without the athletes, there's no league. Without us, there's no them. And they don't think like that. They say, "We're your main source of income, so you're going to need me before I need you." I think you just have to be willing to do that. You have to be willing to make that move, and, you know, strength comes in numbers. If you don't have those numbers, it's not going to work.
The people in the position of power understand now more than ever that some of the athletes are just as powerful as them. And that's the scary part. To know that, "Somebody I'm paying, you know, is just as powerful as me. We don't want that."
Anthony currently serves as a board member of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition, with fellow players Avery Bradley, Sterling Brown, Donovan Mitchell, and Karl-Anthony Towns. The goal of the organization is to raise awareness, educate and advocate for meaningful reform, such as voting access and criminal justice reform.
The winner of the award will receive $100,000 to their selected organization aimed at advancing social justice. The other four finalists will each receive $25,000.
The winner will be announced prior to Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals on TNT.