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Who woulda thunk it? Carmelo Anthony donning a black beret reminiscent of a black panther or even a modern-day Che Guevara on the cover of ESPN magazine!
This from the guy whose brand was synonymous with “selfishness, greed, and being overpaid” only a few years ago in an earlier interview he did with ESPN Magazine in 2014.
Today, Carmelo Anthony stands for more than those trite, empty adjectives. (Pausing, because I personally never thought I’d write or say this in this lifetime) but Carmelo Anthony is about to be more than a basketball player that makes money investing in businesses after his career is over and done.
He might be evolving into a major sports icon-social activist (a la Muhammad Ali), a tech investor (a la Chris Sacca), or both if he does this thing right.
Yes, Colin Kaepernick took a knee and informed me – and most of America – that there is more than one verse to the Star Spangled Banner. And, even more, one of the verses we “don’t sing” traditionally speaks in a cruel way about slaves (to put it mildly). However, who did Kaepernick call about what to do after sparking a national debate? He called “Melo”!
Well, a few years into a more intentional rebranding of himself, Melo has emerged with several businesses in tow and a steady movement away from the “bottle popping” (in plain sight at least). NOW he’s a venture capitalist (he was an early investor in Lyft) dropping quotes that encourage people to become self-actualized without being preachy. Deep, right?
Needless to say, Melo is doing his homework. Even his recent international plane ride during the Olympic Games came replete with memes that spoke to his not-so-subtle disdain for the juvenile antics NBA players (and many other pro sports players) are known, loved, and/or hated for.
However, the trouble for anyone that wants to follow Carmelo Anthony’s lead is that they have to be smart, have smart people on their personal (brand) team, know who they are or want to be. They also have to be able to execute their vision in a politically charged environment while still being AMAZING at their “day job” as a pro baller.
That ain’t easy! So most won’t do it.
But for the few that want to try to step out and rebrand themselves like Carmelo and even more for those that want to add a socially conscious element to their brand image, please, please do your homework.
Most agents, managers, sports publicists and sports marketers don’t know how to authentically and efficiently do both corporate/big-box brand messaging or positioning AND social entrepreneurship or “meaning-based” brand development.
And if you aren’t going to do it right, don’t do it. I know a few people will be mad at me but hold on; hear me out. If the branding is done wrong, then your brand will look inauthentic.
For example, there are many well-regarded sports analysts and commentators that think Kaepernick is pulling a “stunt” to gain relevancy with his “knee antics.” History will decide what he stands for in the end. However, if you can’t back up a poignant moment, a provocative tweet, a rally or BLM March appearance with something more substantive and long-term behind it, then you might go the way of Cam Newton. (And damn, that would be sad).
So, with that, I look forward to seeing what Anthony does next because he is not in the clear just yet as it relates to cementing his legacy as a social pioneer. He needs to build out the platform, keep auditing his team, and he needs to continue examining himself and his identity politics. In so doing, he will be able to speak his personal truth to power, and that resonates – even if you are not Black or Puerto Rican.
Still, Melo you have a tad more homework to do to reach that “socialpreneur“ status. To start, begin to codify what “the broken system” is that you have recently spoken about in several interviews. Also, what part of the system will you attempt to correct in only a way you can?
Finally, study community leadership, grassroots movements, visit cultural landmarks that have the energy of the movement being experienced now. Examine the history of the flawed white male cowboy-hero vs. the nearly perfect black male spiritual eunuch leader archetypes, and lastly define what “achieving greatness” means to you on an authentic, visceral level.
If Carmelo can do these things, he might just be able to nip at the heels of the G.O.A.T. himself and oh what a better legacy that would be than having some measly championship ring. Check out the latest in ESPN Magazine.
“P.Parks”, The Brand & Culture Savant
Feature Photo: ESPN Magazine