NBA Player Racially Profiled at Australian Casino

Australian NBA player Ben Simmons has accused a Melbourne casino of racially profiling him and his friends while denying the group entry. Simmons, who is Black, plays for the Philadelphia 76ers.

On Instagram, Simmons claimed that Melbourne’s Crown Casino “singled out” he and two of his Black friends on August 5 by requesting identification and then denying entry to some of them. The 23-year-old said that the group’s lone white friend was not asked for identification.

“I find it so crazy that the only guy who doesn’t get checked to go into the casino is this guy,” Simmons said in a video posted on his Instagram as he pointed to his white friend. “I get checked, Mike gets checked and Taj gets checked.”

His white friend then added: “Not me!”

The video then panned to the security members allegedly responsible.

“Thank you, Crown Casino,” Simmons said. He added, “They didn’t let me in, or him or this guy. Wow, we got a long way to go.”

Crown vehemently denied the suggestion that race played a role in Simmons and his friends being checked by security. The casino said it routinely conducts ID checks for people who appear to be under the age of 25.

“Crown strenuously rejects reports that it discriminated against a group of visitors last night,” the casino said in a statement on August 6, according to Yahoo! Sports. “Crown’s internal security policy requires our security officers to check identification of those persons they believe to be under the age of 25, this is an enhanced safeguard to ensure that no one under the age of 18 is permitted entry to the casino floor as required by law.”

The casino further refuted the claim that Simmons was not allowed to enter its establishment.

“The group subsequently provided identification and were permitted entry,” the statement said. “Crown is an inclusive workplace.”

Crown Casino did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for comment.

Simmons, whose father is African American, deleted the video from his Instagram account on August 6 when it began to grab headlines and the casino released its statement, the Associated Press (AP) reported. The point guard, who became the highest-paid Australian athlete in the world after signing a five-year, $170 million contract with the 76ers, later tweeted an explanation for his video.

“As you know an incident happened last night at Crown and my friends and I felt personally singled out, no one likes to feel like this,” he wrote. “I am very passionate about equality and I will always speak up even if it means having uncomfortable conversations.”

Simmons did not give an explanation as to why he deleted his Instagram video.

According to the AP, Simmons was chosen for Australia’s national basketball team, the Boomers, for some exhibition games against the US team and for the world championships in China in September. However, he withdrew his participation in the national team in order to prepare for the upcoming NBA season.

While unveiling the team’s 12-man squad for the World Cup, Boomers coach Andrej Lemanis told reporters on August 7 that he supported Simmons’ right to speak up but did not comment whether the allegations were valid.

“Ben’s made his statement on that, and from my perspective, I support Ben and his right to express how [he] sees fit,” Lemanis said. “I wasn’t there, so I’ll just support Ben in his ability to express how he feels.”

The Philadelphia 76ers have not released comment about the incident.

According to The Conversation, the Australian Human Rights Commission received 1939 complaints in 2016-17, 409 of which fell under the Racial Discrimination Act. A majority of the complaints were made on the grounds of race (329), national or ethnic origin (189), or racial hatred (159). Indigenous Australians issued about 25 percent of the complaints.

In 2016, a report by Reconciliation Australia said that racism, both perceived and actual experience, was increasing in the country. A reported 57 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians said Australia was a racist country, up from 48 percent in 2014. In general, 39 percent of Australians said the country was racist. The report also found that 37 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians experienced verbal racial abuse in the last six months, compared to 31 percent in 2014.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.