Earlier this week, Philadelphia 76ers player Ben Simmons posted a video on Instagram that suggested he was racially profiled at a casino in Melbourne, Australia. He later deleted the video and explained more fully what his post meant.
Fox News reported that Simmons claimed he and two other black friends were asked for ID to enter the casino while a white person in their group was not. Simmons claimed racism was the reason. The Crown Casino issued a statement saying “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.”
Simmons is 23.
The statement added that the group provided ID and was allowed entrance to the casino and “strenuously reject reports that it discriminated against a group of visitors last night.”
Simmons, according to Fox, is the highest-paid Australian athlete, having just signed “a five-year, $170 million contract extension with the 76ers.”
Rita Panahi, an Australian opinion columnist, provided more details about the incident in Australia’s Herald Sun.
“Privilege is earning more than $240 million for playing basketball, then having taxpayers subsidise your Australian holiday and still playing the victim because for a couple of minutes you were subjected to the indignity of being treated like everybody else,” Panahi wrote.
The News.com.au had previously reported that Victoria’s tourism agency paid Simmons to promote the state, meaning at least part of his trip home was funded by taxpayers.
“Visit Victoria has a standard commercial arrangement with Ben Simmons to utilise his international profile in promoting Victoria to a global audience,” the organization said in a statement. “The agreement contains standard obligations, and payments are only triggered when certain milestones are met.”
The organization added that the payments to Simmons were “very, very modest.”
7News reported this agreement may have been why Simmons deleted his initial Instagram post.
“Undoubtedly Simmons’ claims against Crown Casino to his 4.4 million Instagram followers would have put that arrangement in some jeopardy,” the outlet reported.
Panahi disclosed that the security guard who checked Simmons’ ID (the man essentially accused of racism) was someone with a Middle Eastern background. She added that the casino has a diverse clientele and staff, and said that she is the “same skin shade as Simmons” but is never asked for ID.
“[N]ot because I’m privileged but because I, just like his white mate, clearly look over 25,” Pahani wrote.
The opinion columnist added that Simmons is being called by some “Australia’s Jussie Smollett,” a reference to the “Empire” actor’s claims that he was attacked by white supporters of President Donald Trump. Police have since determined that two black men were hired by Smollett to stage the attack.
Pahani shot down radio host Steve Price’s suggesting that Simmons made his claim to promote a documentary he is involved in about racism in Australia, writing she believed Simmons may have truly believed he was singled out.