On Christmas Eve the New York Times pushed the NBA’s new gun control campaign (that's NBA, not NRA), both on the front page and on the front of the Sports section. The sports editors really performed a full-court press, taking a local angle with an over-the-top deck of headlines above an enormous picture of New York Knicks player Carmelo Anthony: “Trying to Drown Out The Din of Gunshots – No Stranger to Despair, Anthony Joins Other Stars in Speaking Up for a Cause.” As long as it’s a cause approved of by the liberal Times, anyway.
Carmelo Anthony carries an often unfair reputation as the jejune hoop star, the man with a smile almost too soft and a manner too easy.
Yeah, well, let’s give him credit where due.
In April, Anthony donned a black fedora; marched in the streets of his boyhood city, Baltimore; and spoke against both police violence and random street violence.
And now here Anthony is again, appearing in the N.B.A.’s first televised advertisement denouncing gun violence, scheduled to run Christmas Day, and, implicitly, calling for gun control.
There is an undeniably powerful undercurrent to these spots, the mothers of children executed in broad daylight, the father whose daughter was blown away on a college campus. And it is only somewhat less powerful to listen as a growing number of professional athletes (and semiprofessional college athletes) discover their social and cultural voices.
This violence feels like an American math problem whose answer forever contradicts the long row of sorrowful numbers. There were this many killed at a junior college, that many assassinated at that church, that many children shot down at that elementary school: The answer is never to rein in the easy availability of even the most baroque of death-dealing guns.
Twenty years ago, the National Rifle Association and the brotherhood of the gun appeared to be on the defensive. A Democratic president had put the association in his cross hairs. Cities and counties and several states sued the gun companies, hoping to drive them into bankruptcy. In 2000, a million moms marched on Washington.
Powell sighed over the continuing grip maintained by the National Rifle Association:
The N.R.A. is more powerful than ever, its once ceaseless internal wars having long ago subsided. Those politicians who could fashion common-sense harnesses for guns most often backpedal.
Few could lay better claim than Anthony to understanding, instinctively, the psychological and corporeal toll taken by poverty, despair and gun violence. Last spring, he spoke to this.
Anthony is also a superstar athlete who has employed personal bodyguards, and thus is afforded the luxury of not having to personally defend himself.
Thursday’s front-page article on the subject by Zach Schonbrun and Michael Barbaro was a little more restrained, though it also welcomed the league’s “political awakening,” led by filmmaker-racial activist Spike Lee.
For the N.B.A., whose public-service partnerships have tended to involve groups like Habitat for Humanity and the Boys & Girls Clubs, the foray into the issue of gun violence is a significant departure. But it reflects a political awakening inside the league that is led not by its executives but by its players.
It’s actually not the first “political awakening” in the NBA celebrated by the paper. Back in 2010, when Arizona’s strict immigration law had the left screaming about boycotts, sportswriter George Vecsey praised the Phoenix Suns team for wearing “Los Suns” on their jerseys.
Of course, if athletes happen to have their political awakening on the “right” side of the bed, it’s Times sportswriters who feel grumpy, as shown by their dyspeptic reactions to Jennifer Capriati supporting troops during the Iraq War, and Duke University female athletes showing support for their male colleagues on the lacrosse team, during the notorious “rape hoax” of 2006 that the Times' gullible coverage helped encourage.