The NBA created a new honor: the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award.
The first winner?
Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony.
The NBA today announced that 10-time NBA All-Star, entrepreneur and philanthropist Carmelo Anthony of the Portland Trail Blazers has been named the inaugural Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion. Anthony was selected from a group of five finalists for his 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, 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-before-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. The winner of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award was determined by a selection committee composed of Abdul-Jabbar, notable social justice leaders, including Director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport Dr. Richard Lapchick, student activist Teyonna Lofton, National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial, UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía, Rise Founder and CEO Amanda Nguyen, and NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum.
The four other finalists:
- Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes
- Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris
- Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday
- Golden State Warriors forward Juan Toscano-Anderson