NBA star Carmelo Anthony, the Baltimore native who drew sharp criticism for appearing in a DVD that celebrates witness intimidation, says he will work with authorities to campaign against drugs and violence in Maryland.
Anthony's precise role in such a campaign has not been determined, but state and federal officials hope his star power will add resonance to their message, particularly among urban youth.
Denver star Carmelo Anthony plans to help authorities in Maryland in a campaign against drugs and violence.
(Jeff Chiu - AP)
Anthony, 20, appears briefly in "Stop Snitching," an underground DVD that has been circulating in Baltimore since November. The Denver Nuggets player, who does not condone violence or drugs on the DVD, said he was unaware of the DVD's message when he was on camera while visiting his former neighborhood.
"I'm completely against violence and drugs -- that's not me," Anthony said last week in a phone interview. "I just want to get the word out. I've lost friends to violence. I would never support anybody harming anyone. . . . I just want to help."
The DVD, for sale in at least one Baltimore shop, includes men talking about retaliation against suspected police informants. "To all you rat snitches lucky enough to get this DVD, I hope you catch AIDS," a man says at the beginning of the video.
The video has focused attention on witness intimidation, which prosecutors say is particularly a problem in Baltimore and Prince George's County. State lawmakers viewed portions of the video Tuesday at a hearing on three proposals that would stiffen penalties for witness intimidation.
On Thursday, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) criticized the DVD during his State of the State address. "Criminals in our state's largest city are employing a new tactic to scare witnesses and victims of crime -- intimidation by infomercial," Ehrlich said. "This now-infamous 'Stop Snitching' DVD is a wake-up call for all of us."
The DVD glorifies the drug trade and features threats of violence against people who cooperate with police. Anthony, who says nothing about drugs or violence on the DVD, is shown standing with a group of men who are talking and laughing.
Representatives from Ehrlich's office approached Anthony weeks ago about participating in a program to mitigate the effects of the DVD, authorities said.
Representatives for Anthony said they are negotiating with the governor's office about his potential role in an anti-violence and anti-drug campaign. The athlete's representatives also are talking to Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), whose district includes Baltimore. Cummings has criticized the DVD's potentially negative impact.
"There are no specifics that have as of yet been worked out," said Jervis Finney, Ehrlich's legal counsel. "But we have reported to the governor that [Anthony] wishes to cooperate."
Cummings said he has urged Anthony, through his representatives, to do a public service announcement but that the basketball star "seems a little reluctant."
The announcement "is very important," Cummings said. "The power of his image and the influence he could wield, especially among young people who see him as a role model, would have a positive impact."
Lindsay Kagawa, director of community affairs for California-based BDA Sports Management, which represents Anthony, said negotiations are centering on what platform would be most effective for the athlete.