Denver Nuggets big man Chris Andersen loves tattoos. He loves them so much that even when you think he couldn't possibly add more to his body, he finds a way, and even when you think he is done working on them, he continues to add elements. He loves tattoos, and he loves showing them off, both for personal satisfaction and, we've now learned, for causes he supports.
Causes like PETA's "Ink, Not Mink" anti-fur campaign, for which the player famously known as "The Birdman" just shot the above advertisement, plus another that you'll find after the jump.
Andersen says in a PETA video (which we won't embed here, as it features some strong images of animal cruelty, but it can be checked out on PETA's YouTube channel if you're curious) that he came to support the controversial animal-rights advocacy organization's anti-fur efforts after seeing previous PETA spots decrying the production, sale and purchase of fur clothing, which made him want to learn more on the subject, "jump up and get involved as well."
"These animals aren't dying in a good way. I think everyone should be aware of that, and take notice, and take heed of what they've seen on this video," Andersen says in the clip. "I'd advise everybody to take a look at it, because it's a nightmare. ... Animals, they don't deserve to be beaten or slaughtered."
Andersen implores viewers to check out PETA's resources to learn more about "what is going on in the Chinese world of fur farms, be aware of what is going on behind the scenes ... and not to purchase the fur."
He unveiled the campaign on Wednesday, when he helped give away donated fur coats to homeless people (whom PETA called "the only people who have any excuse for wearing fur" in a statement) at a Denver shelter, according to Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post.
Andersen becomes the fourth current or former tatted-up NBA player to take part in the "Ink, Not Mink" campaign. He joins New York Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire, who posed for PETA in 2009 while a member of the Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic guard Gilbert Arenas, whose ad dropped in 2010 while he was a member of the Washington Wizards, and NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, who in 2005 became the first NBA star to team up with PETA.
Athletes from other pro sports featured in the "Ink, Not Mink" campaign include Denver Broncos running back Willis McGahee, who bared all for PETA while a member of the Baltimore Ravens, and New England Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, who shot his spot while employed by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Superstitious sorts might notice that all the current players listed above wound up moving on to new teams after their PETA shoot. If any Nugs faithful are concerned about the prospect of a social-conscience-oriented version of the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx or Madden Curse taking the Birdman out of their time zone, please note that:
• Andersen had arguably the most productive season of his career for Denver when he wasn't injured last year;
• He'll be counted on to help fill a potentially glaring need for interior size on a Nuggets team that may lose Nene, many teams' top free-agent target, and wouldn't be able to re-sign free agent Kenyon Martin until after he comes back from China in March anyway;
• And he's locked down through 2014 on a pretty cap-friendly five-year, $21 million extension that he signed back in 2009 ...
... so you'd think the Nuggets would be motivated to hang on to the Birdman for at least a little while longer. Of course, the thing about pretty cap-friendly deals is that while they make players attractive to keep, they also make them easier to move to teams that likewise find them attractive. For every cloud, a silver lining; for every silver lining, a cloud.
(And if you aren't superstitious/weren't worried about that, don't fret. I throw enough salt over my shoulder to cover both of us.)
Any athletes who choose to align themselves with social or political causes tend to invite scrutiny and criticism for taking a stance with which some fans may disagree. But despite the prospect of backlash for aligning with an organization that has its fair share of detractors (and in spite of that organization's predilection for tough-to-swallow stuff like protesting Mario's Tanooki suit), PETA has become a more popular choice for athletes in recent years.
In addition to Andersen's "Ink, Not Mink" predecessors, Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez and his wife October also went nude in a PETA ad last year, though they showed off no artwork. Nor did Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley, who appeared in an "Adopt, Don't Buy" PETA ad with his dog Jack. Or MMA fighters Tito Ortiz and KJ Noons, who recently shot anti-animal abuse ads for the organization. Or WNBA star Candace Parker, the wife of free-agent forward Shelden Williams and sister of free-agent swingman Anthony Parker, who appeared in a PETA anti-fur ad last March.
The flow of athletes through the spots makes sense as a pretty safe choice from a public relations standpoint — they get to show a side of their personality infrequently reflected in games themselves, they show that they care about Big Things, and even the most ardent meat-eaters probably find it tough to deride players for saying they oppose animal cruelty. So the Birdman gets to show off his artwork, gets some positive light and, we'd like to think, gets to support something he actually cares about. Win, win, win.
Still, though: Can't help but wonder if PETA's not that psyched that its latest high-profile anti-fur advocate wants to start a celebrity redneck hunting show where he and his friends do crazy stuff like, y'know, shooting animals for sport.