Infotainment Factory: The uncomfortable truth about Australia and Simmons

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Monday, 12 August 2019

The uncomfortable truth about Australia and Simmons


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He might end up being one of Australia's greatest athletes of all time, but Ben Simmons' biggest contribution might be kick-starting an uncomfortable conversation.

Since arriving on Australian shores during the NBA's off-season, what was supposed to be somewhat of a fairytale homecoming for the Philadelphia 76ers star has been turned into a nightmare, and not because of his own wrongdoing.

Just three great seasons into his NBA career, Simmons has become one of the polarising athletes both on and off the basketball court.

After being drafted No.1 overall, the Australian has been an unquestioned success on the court, playing a vital role in the once-dormant 76ers franchise transition into a powerhouse.

Yet, his game remains the butt of jokes from many basketball purists.

We've all heard the jibes before about his three-point shooting and lack-thereof, and Simmons probably has too, which is why he would have assumed coming back home would be a 'safe' environment.

How wrong he was.

Ben Simmons

There is no doubting that the 23-year-old is unlike any elite athlete Australia has ever seen. He looks different, he speaks with a slight American slur, he flaunts his riches, all of which is absolutely okay.

But it appears, while he loves his home country regardless of how many years he has spent in the United States, his home country for some mystifying reason cannot love him back.

When looking at Simmons' upbringing, you could argue his biggest 'mistake' might have been not becoming an AFL footballer despite being born in Melbourne.

Herein lies the problem with how Australia handles Simmons and athletes of his magnitude.

Despite being the self-proclaimed 'sporting capital of the world', Melbourne and Australia as a whole, still struggles to grapple with sports outside of it's three areas of domain - AFL, NRL and Cricket.

Australia's agenda on Simmons is thus coloured from the start. Instead of attempting to understand and celebrate his achievements abroad, local media incessantly chooses to cast the 23-year-old as a mere wasted AFL opportunity.

That brings us to the difference in culture between Simmons' code and the AFL.

Despite player movement being at an all-time high, the AFL's ethos is centred around team-first attitudes. No man is ever bigger than a team or a club.

That goes in direct contrast to the NBA which is a star-driven league, where the off-season's free-agency is arguably more anticipated than the season itself.

Yes, the NBA has iconic franchises such as the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers that carry the historic appeal like Collingwood, Carlton and Essendon do in the AFL world.

But ultimately, the league is shaped by where its top five players are playing in any given season.

To its credit, the AFL has taken steps towards becoming line the NBA, one of the world's most popular sporting codes, through the implementation of free agency.

But the league itself has caught purists offside due to "Americanising" their sacred sport.

Simmons has further challenged Australia's team-first ethos by opting to sit out of the Boomers' FIBA World Cup campaign.

Ben Simmons

The problem once again is that compared to the likes of cricket, where wearing the Baggy Green is the highest honour in the game, playing international basketball is far from the highest honour in the game.

Especially not at the FIBA World Cup, a tournament that is less prestigious than its name suggests.

For comparison's sake, LeBron James, the best player from the United States for the last 15 years, has not played a FIBA World Cup game for Team USA since 2006. James has not appeared in international colours since the London Olympics.

In James, Simmons has arguably the best role model an international athlete could have, and it is clear that James' insistence on being more than an athlete has influenced Simmons.

Despite being just 23, Simmons has shown his maturity and willingness to be an activist and speak out against injustice. Firstly, by his involvement in a second Adam Goodes documentary, and secondly, by standing up for himself at the Crown Casino.

Yet, for some reason, there are members of the public that would rather stand in solidarity with the Casino, over the nation's most famous athlete who was scrutinised for shining a light on what is a very real issue that makes too many people uncomfortable.

Ben Simmons

If you need a reminder of just how it ends up when you're an athlete that doesn't shut up and dribble, or dares to step out of the box of being just an athlete, look at what happened to Adam Goodes.

That all brings us to the latest attempt to tear down Simmons, this time because his salary apparently voids him from charging people for providing his services.

Simmons' excellent play over his first two playing seasons resulted in the 76ers agreeing to sign him to a max contract extension, making him Australia's richest athlete.

Simply by virtue of being an NBA player, Simmons' salary dwarfs that of entire AFL team salary caps, again making a large portion of the Australian public uncomfortable because they are viewing him through an AFL lens.

The outrage over Simmons charging children $200 to attend a basketball camp run by an NBA All-Star, has for some reason overshadowed all the good work he has done with children all winter.

According to Helping Hoops, a Melbourne-based charity organisation that runs free basketball clinics for the underprivileged, 30 lucky kids were given free places at Simmons' clinic by the Sixers star himself.

https://twitter.com/helpinghoops/status/1159396342961065990?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Simmons also helped gift a free ticket to a fan who found out about his camp too late, but you won't hear anything about that.

The underlying problem is that Simmons makes a large portion of Australians uncomfortable. It is the undeniable common denominator.

But uncomfortable is okay. Uncomfortable isn't necessarily bad. Uncomfortable leads to difficult conversations that ultimately foster growth.

Like Simmons himself said on his now infamous Instagram video at Crown, "we've got a long way to go."

Adjusting how we view and how we treat athletes of Simmons' ilk will not only help him, but help the next Ben Simmons that will undeniably pop up in a country that is blessed with an abundance of talented athletes.

Fail to do so, and we risk pushing Simmons away past the point of no return.

He might end up being one of Australia's greatest athletes of all time, but Ben Simmons' biggest contribution might be kick-starting an uncomfortable conversation.

Since arriving on Australian shores during the NBA's off-season, what was supposed to be somewhat of a fairytale homecoming for the Philadelphia 76ers star has been turned into a nightmare, and not because of his own wrongdoing.

Just three great seasons into his NBA career, Simmons has become one of the polarising athletes both on and off the basketball court.

After being drafted No.1 overall, the Australian has been an unquestioned success on the court, playing a vital role in the once-dormant 76ers franchise transition into a powerhouse.

Yet, his game remains the butt of jokes from many basketball purists.

We've all heard the jibes before about his three-point shooting and lack-thereof, and Simmons probably has too, which is why he would have assumed coming back home would be a 'safe' environment.

How wrong he was.

Ben Simmons

There is no doubting that the 23-year-old is unlike any elite athlete Australia has ever seen. He looks different, he speaks with a slight American slur, he flaunts his riches, all of which is absolutely okay.

But it appears, while he loves his home country regardless of how many years he has spent in the United States, his home country for some mystifying reason cannot love him back.

When looking at Simmons' upbringing, you could argue his biggest 'mistake' might have been not becoming an AFL footballer despite being born in Melbourne.

Herein lies the problem with how Australia handles Simmons and athletes of his magnitude.

Despite being the self-proclaimed 'sporting capital of the world', Melbourne and Australia as a whole, still struggles to grapple with sports outside of it's three areas of domain - AFL, NRL and Cricket.

Australia's agenda on Simmons is thus coloured from the start. Instead of attempting to understand and celebrate his achievements abroad, local media incessantly chooses to cast the 23-year-old as a mere wasted AFL opportunity.

That brings us to the difference in culture between Simmons' code and the AFL.

Despite player movement being at an all-time high, the AFL's ethos is centred around team-first attitudes. No man is ever bigger than a team or a club.

That goes in direct contrast to the NBA which is a star-driven league, where the off-season's free-agency is arguably more anticipated than the season itself.

Yes, the NBA has iconic franchises such as the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers that carry the historic appeal like Collingwood, Carlton and Essendon do in the AFL world.

But ultimately, the league is shaped by where its top five players are playing in any given season.

To its credit, the AFL has taken steps towards becoming line the NBA, one of the world's most popular sporting codes, through the implementation of free agency.

But the league itself has caught purists offside due to "Americanising" their sacred sport.

Simmons has further challenged Australia's team-first ethos by opting to sit out of the Boomers' FIBA World Cup campaign.

Ben Simmons

The problem once again is that compared to the likes of cricket, where wearing the Baggy Green is the highest honour in the game, playing international basketball is far from the highest honour in the game.

Especially not at the FIBA World Cup, a tournament that is less prestigious than its name suggests.

For comparison's sake, LeBron James, the best player from the United States for the last 15 years, has not played a FIBA World Cup game for Team USA since 2006. James has not appeared in international colours since the London Olympics.

In James, Simmons has arguably the best role model an international athlete could have, and it is clear that James' insistence on being more than an athlete has influenced Simmons.

Despite being just 23, Simmons has shown his maturity and willingness to be an activist and speak out against injustice. Firstly, by his involvement in a second Adam Goodes documentary, and secondly, by standing up for himself at the Crown Casino.

Yet, for some reason, there are members of the public that would rather stand in solidarity with the Casino, over the nation's most famous athlete who was scrutinised for shining a light on what is a very real issue that makes too many people uncomfortable.

Ben Simmons

If you need a reminder of just how it ends up when you're an athlete that doesn't shut up and dribble, or dares to step out of the box of being just an athlete, look at what happened to Adam Goodes.

That all brings us to the latest attempt to tear down Simmons, this time because his salary apparently voids him from charging people for providing his services.

Simmons' excellent play over his first two playing seasons resulted in the 76ers agreeing to sign him to a max contract extension, making him Australia's richest athlete.

Simply by virtue of being an NBA player, Simmons' salary dwarfs that of entire AFL team salary caps, again making a large portion of the Australian public uncomfortable because they are viewing him through an AFL lens.

The outrage over Simmons charging children $200 to attend a basketball camp run by an NBA All-Star, has for some reason overshadowed all the good work he has done with children all winter.

According to Helping Hoops, a Melbourne-based charity organisation that runs free basketball clinics for the underprivileged, 30 lucky kids were given free places at Simmons' clinic by the Sixers star himself.

https://twitter.com/helpinghoops/status/1159396342961065990?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Simmons also helped gift a free ticket to a fan who found out about his camp too late, but you won't hear anything about that.

The underlying problem is that Simmons makes a large portion of Australians uncomfortable. It is the undeniable common denominator.

But uncomfortable is okay. Uncomfortable isn't necessarily bad. Uncomfortable leads to difficult conversations that ultimately foster growth.

Like Simmons himself said on his now infamous Instagram video at Crown, "we've got a long way to go."

Adjusting how we view and how we treat athletes of Simmons' ilk will not only help him, but help the next Ben Simmons that will undeniably pop up in a country that is blessed with an abundance of talented athletes.

Fail to do so, and we risk pushing Simmons away past the point of no return.

https://ift.tt/2Z1gWsk
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