Why PeacePlayers, a Detroit Pistons philanthropic partner, will be honored during Basketball HOF enshrinement weekend

Vince Ellis
Special for Pistons.com

PeacePlayers will be honored Friday night when the nonprofit will be presented with the 2023 Mannie Jackson-Basketball’s Human Spirit Award during Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement activities.

Over the last few years, the Detroit Pistons have partnered with the nonprofit’s Detroit organization to host community conversations and basketball clinics at the Henry Ford-Pistons Performance Center that are designed to bring together young people from different backgrounds.

The nonprofit operates in the predominantly Black communities of Cody Rouge and Brightmoor, as well as the primarily Latino community of southwest Detroit, and Dearborn, which is home to a large Muslim population. The nonprofit has a stated goal of “building networks of young leaders for peace and equity in all seven of the city community districts by 2024.”

It’s a mission that attracted Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem, who serves on the nonprofit’s board of directors.

“It’s great to see organizations recognized for good work,” Tellem said earlier this week. “I’ve never seen our country more divided, more polarized.

“PeacePlayers is doing the exact opposite. It's developing leaders where the fundamentals are about finding pathways for a more peaceful world, for a world of coexistence, for a world of acceptance, for a world to bring people together, to find solutions to the many issues we face in a way that's civil, respectful, thoughtful and positive.

“My hope is PeacePlayers and other organizations develop those thoughtful leaders because we clearly lack them now.”

PeacePlayers was founded in 2000 by Sean Tuohey with the mission of using the power of sports to unite, educate, and inspire the next generation to create a more peaceful world. The organization first launched in South Africa in 2001 and now works in Northern Ireland (2002), the Middle East (2005) and the U.S. (2017). The organization has supported numerous other organizations around the globe.

PeacePlayers engages youth in conflict-ridden areas and provides sports programming that is grounded in peace education and the development of conflict resolution and leadership skills. The programs are designed to break down barriers, bridging the divide that exists and unleashing the power of those in the community to act as catalysts for change within their families, schools and neighborhoods.

The organization has won many humanitarian awards, including the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYS (2007).

Tellem has been involved with the organization for 20 years. A former basketball agent, Tellem’s clients would help run basketball camps. It was a way to broaden the thinking of young players just beginning professional careers.

“I remember (former client) Antawn Jamison saying it best,” Tellem said. “It led him to following the news, paying closer attention to what was going on overseas. Some maintained relationships with a lot of the young people they met over there. It was extremely impactful.”

Established in 2007, the Mannie Jackson-Basketball’s Human Spirit Award honors those who have found the game of basketball to be a contributing aspect of personal growth and accomplishment, and a place to develop an understanding of others. Past winners include Magic Johnson, former Piston Chauncey Billups and Detroit native, former NBA standout Jalen Rose.

Jackson, a former standout at Illinois, is a past chairman of the Hall of Fame. A retired senior executive and corporate officer for Honeywell Inc, he acquired Harlem Globetrotters in the early 1990s. He was the first of three Black owners of a major sports and entertainment organization and his family’s charitable contributions have totaled over $15 million.

“It's amazing they're getting the recognition they deserve,” Pistons vice president of community and social responsibility Erika Swilley said. “They are a fairly new organization when it comes to working here in the U.S., but they're showing that the work that they're doing is significant and impactful, and that they are helping to move the needle. “It’s a well-deserved honor.”