The Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons said he was racially profiled in his home country of Australia, and he later doubled down on that claim.
In a now-deleted Instagram video, Simmons said it happened Monday at the Crown Casino in Melbourne, and that security only asked the sole white person in his group for identification. Simmons also said he wasn’t let in.
“I find it so crazy that the only guy who doesn’t get checked to go into the casino is this guy,” said the 6-foot-10 point guard, referring to his white companion, 76ers photographer Alex Subers. “I get checked, Mike gets checked and Tys gets checked. Thank you Crown Casino. D-mn. And they didn’t let me in or him or this guy. Wow, we got a long way to go.”
Australian entertainment reporter Peter Ford then defended the casino on social media and said Simmons didn’t follow the dress code to gain entry. Ford also posted a screenshot of the dress code rules and a photo of Simmons wearing camouflage pants.
“Ben Simmons should check the dress code of Crown,” tweeted the reporter on Monday. “Applies to anyone famous or not and any skin colour. He was wearing camouflage pants.”
But when Ford was asked if the other Black men with Simmons failed to follow the dress code, he couldn’t answer either way. That’s when the reporter changed his claim and said the NBA player and the others didn’t show identification.
“They refused to show ID to security,” he wrote. “Yet it’s easier to turn it into a race issue and go for the sympathy vote.”
Simmons responded to Ford shortly after and said he had it all wrong.
“My friend who got let in also had camouflage pants on,” he tweeted on Monday.
“Do you deny you refused to show ID? Crown security guards and CCTV vision will suggests otherwise,” wrote Ford, who also said Simmons and his friends were “disrespectful” to the security guard.
“Wrong again mate,” Simmons tweeted back.
On Tuesday, the NBA star also wrote a message about what he faced at the casino.
“As you know an incident happened last night at Crown and my friends and I felt personally singled out, no one likes to feel like this,” he tweeted on Tuesday. “I am very passionate about equality and I will always speak up even if it means having uncomfortable conversations.”
The Casino has since issued a statement and denied discriminating against Simmons and the other men in his group.
“The group subsequently provided identification and were permitted entry,” they wrote. “[We] strenuously reject reports that it discriminated against a group of visitors last night.”
In June Simmons agreed to a $242 million deal with the 76ers for five years, which is the biggest sports contract ever signed by an Australian athlete.