The world should know Carmelo Anthony is also Afro-Latino and Puerto Rican
With Team USA’s victory in the Olympics, and news that Carmelo Anthony is now the first men’s basketball player to win three gold medals, I am still holding out hope that someone (anyone) in the mainstream global sports media will acknowledge that Melo is not just a successful African-American athlete, but also a proud Afro-Latino of Puerto Rican descent.
You would think such a fact would be common knowledge, especially since news of Anthony’s boricua roots isn’t a shocking new discovery. Fans of Puerto Rican basketball have wanted Anthony to play for Puerto Rico ever since his Syracuse days. That dream is even making a comebackafter Anthony’s gold medal trifecta with USA Basketball.
And it’s not as if Anthony doesn’t talk about this part of his life. Ask him about his family and he might even show you tattoo of the Puerto Rican flag.
But when the sports media lens is focused on black and white and doesn’t explore other perspectives and experiences, that connection is lost. Let me remind you that earlier this summer, it was the Puerto Rican Afro-Latino Anthony who challenged his fellow pro athletes of color to start speaking out against police violence and follow the tradition of activism established by sports icons such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali.
The question of culture was front and center during the ESPYS, when Anthony joined fellow NBA stars Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James to highlight Black Lives Matter. In the eyes of millions, Anthony was seen as a black athlete expressing solidarity with other black athletes. Yet to the eyes of some, Anthony was there as a Puerto Rican Afro-Latino representing an intersectional point rarely discussed or dissected: What has happened to black lives has also happened to Afro-Latino lives. And as Wade said during the ESPYS, this is about “black and brown lives.”
While Anthony has been praised for his actions this summer, his Afrolatinidad is rarely mentioned. To some, Melo is a black athlete and must fit the black-white media paradigm — a paradigm that won’t allow terms such as Afro-Latino or Puerto Rican or Black Dominican or Afro-Brazilian to be part of the dialogue.
I was so hoping this narrative would have changed, especially at the Summer Olympics in Brazil, a country in which close to half the population is of African descent, according to Pew. But it’s clear that sports media, at least in a general sense, is still struggling to understand how complex it is to be Latino in the United States.
Yet, I still hold out hope. Imagine hearing this during a USA Basketball game:
“An 18-footer by Anthony as the U.S. takes a commanding lead. The New York Knicks star has been a strong voice this summer, speaking out against police violence. Many fans might not know that Anthony is an Afro-Latino whose father was Puerto Rican. Even as black athletes are speaking out, an Afro-Latino is leading the way.”
You see how narratives change?
It’s not that hard.
Here’s hoping that people are finally listening.
The NBA season is only weeks away.