'Play for Justice' Brings Together NBA Teams and Incarcerated Individuals at Correctional Facilities Across Country
Today, the REPRESENT JUSTICE Campaign tipped off a series of basketball games at correctional facilities across the country between incarcerated individuals and NBA players and coaches. The first games will take place with the Sacramento Kings and Milwaukee Bucks, with more activations with participating NBA and WNBA teams to be announced in late December and the beginning of 2020.
The REPRESENT JUSTICE Campaign organized the Play for Justice initiative to advance the goals of uplifting narratives of hope and redemption, in order to break down stigmas associated with individuals—disproportionately people of color and the poor—who are impacted by the criminal justice system. The games are organized by the Campaign, in partnership with One Community, working with the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) and participating NBA teams. In addition to the Play For Justice events in Sacramento and Milwaukee, the Campaign has worked with NBA and WNBA teams and players to organize events, including film screenings and community conversations, as part of the broader effort.
“There is immense potential to connect people with different life experiences and backgrounds through the collaboration of sport. Play for Justice is one hopeful step in the process of restoring dignity and mercy to the people in our criminal justice system,” said Scott Budnick, founder and CEO of One Community and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC). “We’re thankful for the participating players who are using their talents to take a stand for a fair legal system, amplifying the stories of incarcerated folks, and inspiring their team members, their fans and the larger sports community to do the same.”
Players and coaches from the participating NBA teams will sit down for a facilitated conversation with incarcerated people and members of the REPRESENT JUSTICE Campaign, who are themselves formerly incarcerated. Following the conversation, professional players will serve as honorary coaches during an hour long basketball game with NBA alumni, coaches and incarcerated individuals.
“I’m excited to see NBA players and coaches team up with the REPRESENT JUSTICE Campaign to learn more about the legal system and support efforts to build one rooted in dignity,” said Caron Butler, NBA Champion and Vera Institute of Justice board member. “Both on the court and off, this is an opportunity to shape a criminal justice system that touches the lives of millions of Americans, mine included.”
The games are part of the REPRESENT JUSTICE Campaign’s efforts to engage audiences and spark collective action to demand a fair legal system, dignity for system-impacted communities, and an end to extreme sentencing. On December 6, the Campaign organized a concert with Common for incarcerated individuals at the California Rehabilitation Center in Norco, California. In November, the Campaign—working with world-renowned French artist JR—captured and pasted portraits of 48 formerly and currently incarcerated individuals at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi, California to create a large-scale mural in the facility’s yard.
"I’ve joined the Represent Justice Campaign because after being sentenced to life in prison and now free, I want people to see that I am the reflection, not the exception, of humanity that's hidden inside our prison walls. In starting and leading a successful justice reform organization, I want to share my story so that redemption and second chances are driving values in the effort to reform our legal system,” said Adnan Khan, a REPRESENT JUSTICE Campaign surrogate, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Re:Store Justice, who will be participating in the Sacramento Kings activation. “With the support of the players involved in Play for Justice, we are taking our message of humanizing system-impacted people far and wide.”
Through art, storytelling, and values-based conversations focused on redemption, mercy, and the possibility of a second chance, the REPRESENT JUSTICE Campaign, in partnership with One Community, will aim to humanize incarcerated individuals in the media and public opinion. Campaign partners include: 8th Amendment Project, Alliance for Safety and Justice, Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth, Color Of Change, Healing Dialogue and Action, Prison Fellowship, The Justice Collaborative, The Innocence Project, The Sentencing Project, The Vera Institute for Justice, and Witness to Innocence.