Simmons reignites Crown casino racism claims
Aussie basketball sensation Ben Simmons has reignited claims of racism related to his rejection from Melbourne's Crown casino this year.
The NBA star who tipped off his third season with the Philadelphia 76ers today has previously shied away from opportunities to talk about the August incident.
But in an interview with US sports site The Undefeated, Simmons declared Crown security staff of racial profiling, claiming they were "picking us out".
"It didn't make us feel good,'' he said. "You've probably been in situations where you felt lesser or just made you feel lesser of a person or just not good about yourself.
"But it wasn't really about me not feeling good about myself.
"It was me knowing that's not right, and me letting them know it's not right.''.
Simmons, 23, sparked a media storm when accused Melbourne's Crown casino bouncers of refusing he and his friends entry because of their skin colour.
"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 an Instagram video at the time, before panning the camera to a white member of his entourage.
"I get checked, Mike gets checked and Tys gets checked. Thank you Crown Casino, damn, and they didn't let me in, or him or this guy. Wow, we got a long way to go.
Crown denied the claim at the time, suggesting the group was asked for identification because the men looked young, but today declined to comment.
YOUNG SIMMONS CALLED THE 'N-WORD'
The basketball star also spoke at length to the US site about his experiences with racism as a youngster in Australia and his decision to speak up on that night in August.
"I've had certain situations where I've been called the n-word from other kids at a young age," Simmons said.
"And the one thing my dad told me was, 'Never take that from anybody. Never let anybody be racist towards you or make you feel a certain way, because it's not right.' That's the one thing that's sort of stuck with me."
In the US interview, Simmons said the Crown incident was "not a random thing" and "Everybody should be respected and treated the same way".
"I'm never going to back down, because I know I wasn't in the wrong,'' he said.
"It wasn't a situation where I was making things up.''
Simmons said he was "not afraid to let anybody know how I feel about it because I am who I am".
"At the end of the day, I'm from Australia. I was born there, I was raised,'' he said. "It's where I'm from. And I want that respect too.''
He said he was aware the public was divided about him drawing attention to the incident.
"I had many people reach out and tell me they felt the same way and had similar experiences within different places and even the same place,'' he said.
"But there was also a lot of negativity that came with it.
"There was a lot of people saying, 'Well, you think you should just be let in because you're this and that.'
"And it had nothing to do with that.''
Simmons said he was "really appreciative'' of Adam Goodes' role calling out racism and it was a key reason he was an executive producer on documentary The Australian Dream.
"He was called a 'monkey' or 'ape' on social media for months,'' he said. "People booing him every time he touched the ball.
"He handled it. I got a lot of respect for Adam the way he handled it. I don't know if I would've handled it the same way.''
In an exclusive Herald Sun interview in August, Simmons said "people's eyes' need to be opened" to the problem and "people ought to do better''.
"It's the wrong thing, so when I see the wrong thing, I'm going to call it out,'' he told the Herald Sun.
"If I see bulls---, I'm going to call it out. I won't shy away from it.''