Former Syracuse star and current Portland Trail Blazer Carmelo Anthony was the recipient of the first Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award, the NBA announced on Tuesday. The award is given to someone with dedication over the past year to pursuing social justice and advancing Abdul-Jabbar’s life mission to engage, empower and drive equality for individuals and groups who have been historically marginalized or systemically disadvantaged. Anthony beat out finalists Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings), Tobias Harris (Philadelphia 76ers), Jrue Holiday (Milwaukee Bucks) and Juan Toscano-Anderson (Golden State Warriors).
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Anthony, whose efforts to effect change span nearly two decades, further intensified his commitment to social justice this past year. In July 2020, he partnered with 11-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns and NBA legend Dwyane Wade to create the Social Change Fund, which aims to address social and economic justice issues facing Black communities and break down the discriminatory barriers to success. Through the fund, Anthony is focused on critical issues including championing criminal justice reform and inclusion, advocating for the human rights of all Black lives, expanding access to voting and civic engagement, increasing Black representation in government, and building economic equity in communities of color through investment in education, employment, wages, and housing. Last summer, he also served as guest editor-in-chief for SLAM magazine’s special Social Justice issue that featured the game’s most influential activists, including Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell and Sheryl Swoopes. All proceeds were donated through the Social Change Fund to support organizations working on critical issues impacting the Black community.
Beyond the fund, Anthony has highlighted other important causes over the course of the year. In March, he partnered with 94-year-old activist Ms. Opal Lee to raise awareness of Juneteenth and advocate for the day to become a national holiday, which was ultimately signed into law this month through the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. He was also the featured voice in a powerful campaign with the Vera Institute of Justice to promote criminal justice reform. Most recently, Anthony announced global, multi-platform content company Creative 7 Productions, which he co-founded to champion inclusive, purpose-driven storytelling from diverse voices.
Within the NBA community, Anthony’s mentorship of young players and consistent engagement across the league have inspired organizations and teammates to deepen their efforts to advance change. He was instrumental in the launch of the Trail Blazers Racial Injustice Initiative, a multi-layered program that has provided more than $200,000 in funding to organizations fighting systemic racism. Anthony also currently serves as one of the players on the board of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition.
Anthony continues to focus on social reform through the Carmelo Anthony Foundation, which he founded over 15 years ago as a vehicle for actionable change and social reform through a variety of outreach programs, disaster relief initiatives, and donations. His forthcoming memoir, Where Tomorrows Aren’t Promised, will give a never-befor-seen-look into Anthony’s upbringing and draws attention to the social, health and economic inequities in communities of color. The book will be released on September 14th, 2021.
Anthony has selected the Portland Art Museum’s Black Arts and Experiences Initiative to receive a $100,000 contribution on his behalf.