MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons has opened up on the incident at Melbourne’s Crown Casino where he suggested he was subject to racial profiling by security staff.
Australian Simmons created a media storm in August when he said on social media that he and his friends felt “personally singled out” when asked for identification by casino staff.
The 23-year-old told ESPN-owned website “The Undefeated” that experiences of receiving racial abuse from a young age had prompted him to speak out.
“I’ve had certain situations where I’ve been called the N-word from other kids at a young age,” said Simmons, who was born in Melbourne and whose father is African-American.
“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.”
Crown denied any wrongdoing in the wake of the incident, saying staff were required to check identification of those they believed to be under the age of 25 as a “safeguard” to prevent minors from entering illegally.
People under the age of 18 are barred from entering Australian casinos.
Simmons, who signed a five-year contract extension with the 76ers worth a reported $170 million in July, said he would not “back down” from his version of events.
“It didn’t make us feel good. 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,” said Australia’s top-earning athlete.
“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.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Sam Holmes