Carmelo Anthony Refuses to Stay Silent on Politics, Kaepernick & the Fashion Business

In February, a Fox News anchor told LeBron James to “shut up and dribble.” Months later, President Donald Trump ratcheted up his Twitter attacks on Nike for supporting former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. While pro athletes are being urged to remove themselves from politics, NBA star Carmelo Anthony is refusing to sit silent.

In fact, being in the NBA, a league that has supported player protests, has made it easier for the 15-year veteran, known for his mild-mannered temperament, to speak out.

“[NBA commissioner] Adam Silver does a great job of supporting the players in saying, ‘We support your cause. We understand it’s not just about you. You’ve got family in these places that are being affected,’” Anthony told FN last month after a three-hour practice with his new team, the Houston Rockets. “We might not be affected to a certain extent, but our families are, kids are, so it’s great for the NBA to step up and give us a platform to speak out.”

The experience for Anthony is vastly different from that of the athletes in the NFL, who have been largely silenced, or in the case of Kaepernick, excommunicated from the league.

Anthony has expressed that he’s proud of Nike, the parent company of Jordan Brand, for which he is an ambassador. He appreciates how the Swoosh has provided Kaepernick a launchpad for his social justice message.

“That was one hell of a move by Nike. Regardless of the backlash, they stepped up to the plate and backed something they understand our culture needs,” he said. “It’s bigger than selling a sneaker. [And] it’s not just about Kaepernick; it’s about his message and what he stands for.”

However, there is messaging coming from other high-profile celebrities that Anthony vehemently opposes.

Much like the rest of the country in this politically charged climate, the baller had an opinion on the moment’s hottest topic: Kanye West’s meeting at the White House with Trump. The two met four days prior to FN’s interview with Anthony.

“I don’t think anybody knows what Kanye’s motives are or what he’s trying to get out of this, whether it’s for him as an individual or to help our community, but don’t do it at everybody else’s expense,” Anthony said. “Do it behind closed doors; don’t throw this in everyone’s face.”

While West’s controversial political views (some of which he’s since walked back) and the interaction with Trump (whom Anthony considers divisive) remain talking points in the news, it’s not the first time the baller has addressed contentious topics publicly — he is interested in being part of the conversation.

Following in the footsteps of his father, Carmelo Iriate, a member of the Puerto Rican social justice group Young Lords, Anthony became a leader when his community needed it most. In July 2016, he held a town hall-style meeting in Los Angeles following the deadly police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Also that month, he stood alongside James, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade during the ESPY Awards to advocate for social change.

But his toughest discussions don’t take place in front of the masses; they occur at home with his son, Kiyan.

“With what’s going on with society, you’re forced to have conversations you don’t want to have — what’s going on in our country, what’s going on with our president, why was this person shot and killed,” Anthony explained. “My son is 11 years old, and I’ve got to answer those questions, because if I don’t, then he can get [answers] from somebody else, and who’s to say they are going to give him the right information?”

Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony in a Rag & Bone suede camel jacket and leather cap, Air Jordan x Carmelo Anthony x Rag & Bone sneakers and shirt, and Rag & Bone x Carmelo Anthony denim.
CREDIT: Bryan Schutmaat

Courting Fashion

At 34, Anthony is entering the latter stages of his playing career. While he aims to win an elusive first NBA championship this season — he signed a one-year, $2.4 million deal with the Rockets this summer — the hoops star is continuing to set himself up for life away from the hardwood.

And he has blueprints to follow. Take, for instance, basketball icon Magic Johnson, who turned his name into a billion-dollar conglomerate that has investments in real estate, Starbucks and sports franchises. Then there’s Shaquille O’Neal, who retired from the NBA in 2011 but has since made more money off-court by investing in business ventures like security system Ring and Krispy Kreme stores.

Similarly, Anthony’s business ventures include investments in technology (Melo7 Tech Partners LLC) and TV, film and digital production (Crea7ive). The latter’s latest work is “B/Real,” presented by Cricket Wireless, a five-film series in conjunction with Bleacher Report that launched last month. The clips tell the compelling stories of young athletes who have conquered adversity and who end up getting surprise visits from today’s biggest star athletes.

But Anthony’s most significant business dealing is fashion.

Two months ago, he revealed his first capsule collection, dubbed “Melo Made,” which he showed immediately following New York Fashion Week. The presentation featured a compelling lineup of footwear, apparel and accessories in conjunction with handpicked leading menswear brands including Goorin Brothers, Rochambeau and Famous Nobodys.

But the most discussed piece from “Melo Made” was a new Air Jordan 20, executed in collaboration with Rag & Bone.

“We wanted to take something that was iconic, like the Air Jordan 20, and reintroduce it in a new and unexpected way,” Marcus Wainwright, founder and CEO of Rag & Bone, said of the sneakers.

Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony in a Rag & Bone wool overcoat, black henley and camo pants with Air Jordan 9 retro sneaker boots.
CREDIT: Bryan Schutmaat

The athlete-turned-designer, along with the brand, created two iterations of the classic Michael Jordan signature shoe: a primarily black look with a gum sole and gray panels, and a version executed in olive, orange and black hues.

Collaborating with several respected labels allowed Anthony to bypass what he called frustrating industry guidelines.

“When you abide by the rules of the fashion industry, you have to have this style, have this color, follow those trends,” Anthony said. “I don’t want to have to meet deadlines. Let’s just do what we want to do, what fits me and what people I know want to wear. Let’s have fun with it.”

The 10-time NBA All-Star shared that his passion for sneakers and apparel started as a kid. “I’ve always had this sense of, ‘Those sneakers are fly, I could put this with that,’” Anthony said.

Still, fashion isn’t just a hobby for him. It’s a bona fide business. And thanks to basketball — and being in the New York spotlight, where he played for seven seasons — Anthony plans to use his name and hard work ethic to make his brand a success.

When asked how he manages to balance all his obligations, Anthony cracked a smile and said: “It’s the business. I’ve got to get it done.” The “Melo Made” collection is also a way for Anthony to showcase his approachable, yet distinguished, taste in clothing.

“His style is classic, timeless,” said Khalilah Beavers, Anthony’s stylist for nine years. “We don’t do a whole lot of bells and whistles; it’s just simple and eye-catching. There’s three goals: to be comfortable, to be himself and to look good doing it.”

Likewise, industry heavyweights outside of the player’s circle are confident his presentation will resonate with the masses.

“Other ballplayers are playing with this avant-garde, dramatic high-fashion approach, things most guys who love basketball could never relate to. Whereas Carmelo Anthony, he’s the man’s man,” explained lifestyle expert Jerome Lamar, whose résumé includes styling Kimora Lee Simmons and Chanel Iman. “He’s classic in the way he carries himself and his clothes. It’s a real man’s modern wardrobe.”

Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony in a Rochambeau x Carmelo Anthony checked overcoat, graphic hoodie, plaid trousers and knit logo cap and Bally suede sneakers.
CREDIT: Bryan Schutmaat

Although equipped with a vision for his line, Anthony learned quickly that fashion wouldn’t be an easy layup.

“It’s tedious, it’s a lot of work, but it was fun because I was learning about fabrics and factories,” he said. “Going through that experience took my vision and creativity to a whole new level.”

So just how far does his fashion dream go? Anthony said, if offered, he wouldn’t refuse a new role: director of Jordan Brand.

Speaking hypothetically, Anthony explained he already has a game plan in place for the company (and his Melo signature franchise), if given the reins. For starters, he wouldn’t make any changes to its approach to retro releases, and his first move would be to skip on its performance mindset. Instead, he wants lifestyle aesthetics to drive business.

“Let’s take on-court completely away. We’ve got to be on-court because it’s a performance-driven brand, but let’s not think on-court,” Anthony said. “Guys are wearing fashionable items on the court, fashionable sneakers. Let’s tap into that.”

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