Simmons vows to blow whistle on casual racism in Australia
MELBOURNE basketball sensation Ben Simmons has vowed to blow the whistle on casual racism in Australia and the US, declaring he "won't shy away'' from the issue.
The NBA star - Australia's richest athlete - has decided to take a stand against racism as he strives to become a great of the game and a role model for Aussie kids.
In an exclusive Sunday Herald Sun interview, Simmons said "people's eyes'' needed 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 said.
"If I see bullshit, I'm going to call it out.
"I won't shy away from it.''
In his first major interview since spending several weeks in Australia, Philadelphia 76ers star Simmons said he was proud to call himself an Aussie despite sending most of his time in America.
"I think just the way Australians are, we're very relaxed, genuine, love to have a good time,'' he said.
"And I think that's the one thing I'm proud about.
"And also that physicality I got from footy, from playing AFL and rugby and things like that.
"A lot of Australians are very nice but once they get on the footy field or whatever, the sporting arena, they give it their best.
"And that is what you are respected for.''
Simmons spoke of his special bond with basketball legend LeBron James, who gave him his phone number as a teenager and has acted as a life coach since.
"From that day on, every time I needed advice about something I would go to him,'' Simmons said.
"If it's something basketball or just life related, because he has been though a lot, and that is how our friendship grew.''
And he opened up about his desire to be a role model to Aussie kids and help them follow in his footsteps.
Melbourne born-and-bred Simmons courted controversy on a recent trip home when he accused Crown Casino bouncers of refusing he and friends entry because of the colour of their skin.
Crown denied the claim at the time, suggesting the group were asked for identification because they looked young, but this week declined to comment.
Speaking for first time since returning to the US, Simmons said Australia and the US needed to lift its game in dealing with racism and equality.
"I notice it in both places and it's the same thing,'' he said.
"I've lived in America and Australia and seen both types of racism and to me it's all the same.''
South Sudanese-Australian supermodel Adut Akech called out racism during the week after a magazine published her interview alongside a photo of "another black girl".
She said Australia was lagging behind other countries when it came to diversity.
"There is still a lot of work to do and Australia needs to definitely catch up," she said.
But Simmons was heartened by documentary The Australian Dream for shining a light on the racism AFL great Adam Goodes endured during his career.
"I think it should be an eye opener for everybody in the world - not only Australia,'' he said.
"I think it's a good message to send out.
"It's not a negative message to send to anybody in particular.
"It's more so opening up people's eyes and letting them know that this still exists and that people ought to do better.''
Simmons, recently announced as a Four N Twenty ambassador to try and convince Americans to eat Aussie pies, said he wanted to maintain a strong bond with budding Aussie basketballers.
"I obviously had a guy like LeBron in my corner where I was able to go to him,'' he said.
"So hopefully I can give a lot of those Australian rising kids coming through the system advice and support once they are going through the stages that I had to go through.''