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Carmelo Anthony: ‘The system is broken. It takes a lot to fix it’

The Knicks star speaks out after the verdict in Baltimore and his momentous ESPYS moment

Carmelo Anthony could only shake his head.

For most of Monday’s practice with Team USA Basketball in Las Vegas, the veteran forward was all smiles. Then afterward, the Baltimore native was told about what happened back in his hometown and his mood turned somber. For the fourth time, prosecutors in Baltimore failed to secure a conviction in the Freddie Gray case as Lt. Brian Rice was acquitted on Monday of all charges related to Gray’s arrest and death.

“It’s just sad,” Anthony told The Undefeated. “The people there, the communities there, all they want is justice. Everybody is expecting something to come out of this. It’s just getting worse and worse.”

Gray, an African-American, died on April 19, 2015, at age 25 from injuries to his spinal cord a week after suffering them while falling into a coma as he was transported in a police van. Anthony marched in Baltimore shortly after to participate in a protest against injustices in the city and elsewhere. Now, however, the New York Knicks forward says athletes need to be more creative to use their strong, respected and very influential voices.

“I don’t think anyone has the answers. I said it before, the system is broken. It takes a lot to fix it,” Anthony, 32, said.

On July 14, Anthony joined fellow NBA stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul on the stage at the start of The ESPYS to promote social change.

The speeches were sparked by an Instagram post of Anthony’s on July 7 in which he called on “all my fellow ATHLETES to step up and take charge. Go to your local officers, leaders, congressman, assemblymen/assemblywoman and demand change.” The four texted each other in a group thread afterward to figure out how they could use an eventually acquired ESPYS platform to speak and encourage other athletes. In the aftermath of two recent high-profile shooting deaths of black men by police officers and five Dallas police officers recently, Anthony spoke out on stage saying, “the problems are not new, the violence is not new, and the racial divide definitely is not new, but the urgency for change is definitely at an all-time high.”

He explained the group’s motivation behind the strong statement.

“We were in the back saying, ‘Our time is now. Let’s step in front of the people, every athlete and the ‘Who’s Who’ that is in there,’ ” he said. “Hopefully, the message that we put out there, not just the people that were watching, but also the people that were there, that they they can feel what we were talking about.”

So what’s next for Anthony?

The two-time Olympic gold medalist told The Undefeated he is spearheading a possible town hall meeting in Los Angeles soon. Although he said it is a work in progress and offered little details at the moment, it could include a discussion with multicultural people, city officials and law enforcement. Anthony, who has an off-season home in Los Angeles, said some “very important people” have reached out to him since the speech. The USA basketball team will be off in Los Angeles on Saturday, play China in an exhibition game on Sunday and train at the Los Angeles Clippers’ facility on Monday.

“My next thing is to do something in L.A. when we go there. A town hall,” Anthony said. “Get guys in the community in L.A., the important people. They need to hear the community voices and vice versa whether it’s police, whether it’s politicians, whether it’s mayors, whether it’s governors, white people, black people, Mexicans, whoever. I want everybody there having voices.

“It’s about creating a plan and executing a plan and not just speaking out on this and speaking out on that. At the end of the day, talking is not going to do that anymore. We got to have action, no matter what that action is, we got to have action.”

Anthony was saddened by the killings of police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Sunday and called the recent stretch of worldwide bad news “unfortunate.” He added that the country has to stay united, and he won’t be deterred by critics who believe athletes should just concentrate on sports and not social issues.

“It’s too close to us,” Anthony said. “We’re human beings. Just because we are athletes, people are saying we shouldn’t be saying this and we should be saying that. We are human beings. We are affected by it. Our families are affected by it. Our local communities are affected by it.

“The Freddie Gray situation is right in my backyard. These are my people, people that I grew up with. It’s affecting me.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for The Undefeated. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.