Crown Resorts has found itself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons once again after Australian basketball star Ben Simmons accused the staff at Crown’s Melbourne property of turning him away from the venue on the basis of racial profiling.
It is a story that has hit all the major news outlets around the world, including the BBC, Fox News, America’s Associated Press, and The New York Post. Some newspapers have branded it a scandal while former NBA star Jalen Rose said it was not a good look for Australia.
The story broke when Simmons, an Australian who plays professional basketball for the NBA franchise Philadelphia 76ers, visited the Crown Casino in Melbourne over the weekend. Simmons and his friends attempted to enter the casino but several of them were refused entry.
Simmons was angered and took to his Instagram to vent his frustration to his 4.4 million followers. A now-deleted Instagram video saw Simmons claim he and his black friends were asked to provide identification while his white friend was allowed to freely walk into the casino. Simmons also claims, vis his Twitter account, that his white friend entered the casino wearing camouflage pants, which are not part of the dress code.
A further tweet on August 6th was sent by Simmons to his 829,000 followers. It reads in full, “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. I am very passionate about equality and I will always speak up even if it means having uncomfortable conversations.”
The tweet has been liked 15,000 times, retweeted 1,200 times and has generated 1,100 comments.
Crown Resorts responded to the accusations on August 6th claiming Simmons and his friends were asked for identification because they looked young and that they were subsequently permitted entry once their identification was checked.
“Crown strenuously rejects reports that it discriminated against a group of visitors last night. Crown’s internal security policy requires our security officers to check identification of those persons they believe to be under the age of 25. This is an enhanced safeguard to ensure that no one under the age of 18 is permitted entry to the Casino floor as required by law..”
It has come to light that Simmons may have deleted his tweet as he is being paid to show Melbourne in a positive light during his return home during the NBA close season. Visit Victoria has confirmed it had an agreement with 23-year-old Simmons, the highest-earning Australian athlete.
“Visit Victoria has a standard commercial arrangement with Ben Simmons to utilize his international profile in promoting Victoria to a global audience. The agreement contains standard obligations, and payments are only triggered when certain milestones are met.”
Other Australian outlets also claim Simmons has been staying at the Crown Casino Melbourne’s hotel for free, citing this as a possible reason for deleting the Instagram video.
It is quite ironic that security staff at Crown Casino Melbourne did not recognize Simmons despite him being one of Australia’s best sporting exports of recent times.
In 2016, Simmons was the overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft and was drafted to the Philadelphia 76ers. Simmons became the third Melbourne-born number one overall pick of the last 11 years behind Andrew Bogut (2005) and Kyrie Irving (2011).
See as one of the brightest prospects in the NBA, Simmons was crowned NBA Rookie of the Year in his debut season and earned NBA All-Rookie First Team honors. The following season, Simmons became the first Australian to be selected for the NBA All-Star game.
Although he has dual American and Australian citizenship, Simmons has pledged his international basketball future to the Australian national team, affectionately known as “The Boomers”.
Only last month, Simmons signed a five-year contract extension with the Philadelphia 76ers that will see him earn US$170 million (AUD$251,462,000), making him Australia’s highest-paid athlete.