Australian professional basketball player Ben Simmons has implied he was racially profiled at Melbourne’s Crown Casino after being denied entry. The casino has denied the allegation of the 23-year-old Philadelphia 76ers NBA player.
In a now-deleted video on Simmons’ Instagram, the player asked why he and two black friends were asked for identification, but their white friend wasn’t, reports the Guardian.
In footage, Simmons is seen pointing to the white member of their group. Speaking about what happened, he said: “I find it so crazy that the only guy who doesn’t get checked to go into the casino is this guy. They didn’t let me in, or him, or him, or this guy. Wow, we’ve got a long a way to go.”
The casino has denied the discrimination, arguing that it approaches who may look younger than 25 for their ID. All members of the group were granted entry at a different entrance once they had provided identification.
In a statement, the casino said the group was allowed entry when they subsequently provided identification. It added:
[We] strenuously reject reports that [the casino] discriminated against a group of visitors last night.”
Taking to Twitter to talk about his earlier video, Simmons said he and his friends felt they were “personally singled out”.
Simmons is reportedly the highest-paid Australian athlete in the world after signing a five-year $170m contract extension with the Philadelphia 76ers.
He currently has a sponsorship deal with Victoria’s tourism body, Visit Victoria. In a statement, it claimed to have a “commercial arrangement” which sees it use the NBA player’s profile to boost Victoria as a place to visit to a global audience.
Since making the Crown Casino incident public on Instagram and Twitter, Simmons has received support from ex-NBA and NBL player Andrew Gaze. According to Gaze, what the Philadelphia 76ers player did was “courageous”, reports Wide World of Sports.
In Gaze’s opinion, the Australian public has been too quick to judge a story before knowing the full facts behind what happened. Instead, he said people should try and see it from Simmons’ and his friends’ point of view.
“We need a greater understanding of what has happened before we make a decision on it”, he added. “Good on him for having the courage, because he is not a stupid man.”