In ad, Anthony puts a better foot forward

With `Stop Snitching' DVD behind him, NBA star is home to film again

September 23, 2005|By John Woestendiek | John Woestendiek,Sun reporter

Baltimore police had a problem with the last video that NBA star Carmelo Anthony appeared in - an amateur production titled Stop Snitching - but they are being downright hospitable when it comes to his latest venture: an advertisement for the newly redesigned athletic shoe that bears his name.

Anthony was back in his hometown this week filming segments of the upcoming advertisement - on the gritty inner-city street he grew up on and in the steamy gymnasium of a Police Athletic League center.

"There's no ill will," police spokesman Matt Jablow said of Anthony, the Denver Nuggets forward who appeared briefly in a DVD that promoted the illegal drug trade and encouraged violence against people who cooperate with police.

Anthony, who grew up in West Baltimore, played at Towson Catholic High School and led Syracuse University to a national championship as a freshman before turning pro in 2003, said he was unaware of the DVD's theme when he was videotaped while hanging out with friends in his old neighborhood.

The amateur production - more specifically, Anthony's appearance in it - brought national attention and some embarrassment to his hometown late last year.

This week, though, bygones appeared to be bygones as Anthony, 21, returned home to film a commercial for the Nike Air Jordan Melo 5.5 - the second version of the shoe that carries his name.

The new version also carries his number (15), his initials, his trademarked "Melo" logo and the words "Myrtle Avenue," in honor of the street where he grew up.

"Carmelo wanted to give props to Baltimore," said Pilaar Terry, a spokesman for Nike Air Jordan.

The crew filmed on Myrtle Avenue on Tuesday night, at the Robert C. Marshall PAL center on Wednesday and was expected to finish yesterday.

Jablow said the Police Department was providing security for the crew but had denied its requests to use squad cars and a police helicopter in the filming. He said Police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm "didn't think that was a wise use of our resources."

While the decision to film in Baltimore was made by the advertising agency, not Anthony, "it was important for Carmelo to come back and be in his neighborhood," said Roman Vega, Jordan brand manager. "A lot of times the famous and wealthy forget where they came from, but that's something Carmelo is very proud of - where he grew up."

The commercial will not shout Baltimore, and it will use few if any recognizable landmarks. "It could be any inner-city street in America," Vega said.

Vega said Anthony's appearance in Stop Snitching never threatened his relationship with the Jordan brand, which makes shoes and attire with the Melo logo.

The new shoe and the ad are scheduled for release in November. The shoes will cost about $125, Vega said.

The ad is being directed by filmmaker Antoine Fuqua, who directed the movies Training Day, Tears of the Sun and Lightning in a Bottle.

Fuqua described the ad as a dream sequence in which Anthony walks down the street where he grew up, recalling those who have influenced his life. The advertisement also features NBA all-star Bernard King and Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim. At the end of the commercial, Anthony appears in a tunnel in Denver's Pepsi Arena, waiting to run onto the court.

"It's about tunnel vision, staying focused, keeping your eyes on the prize - going to the court, and not stopping to hang out with the homeboys," Fuqua said. "It's about staying with your goal."

Last night, a crowd had gathered outside the PAL center, waiting for glimpses of Anthony. Inside the gym, Anthony and a double, similarly attired, took turns standing in front of a large green screen following orders from the director:

"Chin down, look at the ball, look up at the light bulb, now back down at the ball, now look behind you. Cut."

Later, Anthony walked on a treadmill in front of the screen, looking up at a light bulb that, once the ad is finished, will be replaced with a police helicopter. Anthony, through a representative, declined to be interviewed.

While the city turned down the director's request to use squad cars and a police helicopter, it did provide free use of the PAL center gym and was paid for security and traffic control, said Hannah Byron, director of the Baltimore City Film Office.

In return, the Jordan brand, a division of Nike, made a contribution to the city's Police Athletic League, she said. "I know that the Jordan brand is looking at other community outreach efforts and ways to give back to Baltimore," she said.

Byron said the commercial "contained some very positive elements" and provided an economic boost for the city. "It is a major commercial production that brought in a top Hollywood director, and it's using a large amount of local crew."

Five months after Anthony's appearance in the Stop Snitching DVD, he apologized for it during an anti-violence news conference with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

The DVD led to the arrests of two city police officers referred to in the video as being "in the game." Both were charged by federal authorities with selling confiscated drugs and pocketing the profits.

The video also led to the arrest on drug charges of four other people who appeared in it.

In response to Stop Snitching, the city's Police Department produced and distributed its own DVD, Keep Talking, which highlighted two of those arrests, and encouraged members of the public to cooperate with police.

john.woestendiek@baltsun.com

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