In honor of Black History Month, NBA teams partnered with the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) to encourage athletes, fans, students and law enforcement officers to become “Champions of Change” this past month. Teams around the league partnered with RISE to host a variety of initiatives to celebrate unity and equality and educate people of all ages and backgrounds on ways they can fight social injustice and increase harmony in their communities.
Here are just a few examples of their efforts:
RISE launched its Building Bridges Through Basketball program in Charlotte during NBA All-Star Weekend. Former professional basketball stars Dell Curry and Nancy Lieberman helped kick off the program, which consists of a 10-week leadership curriculum that brings together youth and police in the local community.
The Junior Knicks partnered with RISE to hold a basketball clinic and workshop for youth at the Police Athletic League in Harlem where program organizers highlighted the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and led hands-on group activities to promote diversity, teamwork and trust.
Through their “Champions of Change” campaign, RISE highlighted current and former professional athlete activists, including Knicks legends Larry Johnson, John Starks and John Wallace, who all shared their passion for social justice with fans and explained how sport can be a powerful tool for bringing people together.
The Detroit Pistons hosted a photo experience with RISE called “It Takes All Colors” where fans had the opportunity to sign a pledge opposing discrimination and take pictures with signs stating their commitment to “Rise for Equality” and other key social justice issues.
The Golden State Warriors partnered with RISE to host a conversation with local teenagers and police officers about working together to bridge divides, improve their communities and become respected and empowered leaders.
Amazingly, these Black History Month initiatives only cover the organization’s work with the NBA. RISE hosted game activations and social justice conversations with college teams too, including UMBC and University of Arizona. In addition, RISE hosted a Super Bowl Civil Rights Tour for NFL players and executives during Super Bowl Weekend LIII in Atlanta, followed by the organization’s fourth annual Town Hall.
RISE also unveiled its interactive timeline exhibit that allows fans to experience the relationship between sports, history and society over the past 100 years, starting with boxer Jack Johnson and ending with the Players Coalition formed in 2017 by NFL players seeking to advocate for social justice.
As a fellow organization working to help professional athletes use their platforms to make a positive difference in the world, we admire and appreciate RISE for their phenomenal work not only this past month but all year long!