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Sacramento Kings and Milwaukee Bucks to participate in basketball games at prisons

The teams will host events organized by the Represent Justice Campaign to break down stigmas of individuals impacted by the criminal justice system

The Sacramento Kings and Milwaukee Bucks will be the first NBA teams to participate in basketball games at correctional facilities organized by the Represent Justice Campaign, The Undefeated has learned. Starting this month, NBA players and coaches will serve as honorary coaches in the campaign’s Play For Justice initiative, which will also include facilitated conversations with incarcerated individuals.

The Kings will host the first Play For Justice event at a renovated outdoor court on Thursday evening at an undisclosed prison in Northern California. The Bucks will host an event later this month and together, the Bucks and Kings will host an event in Milwaukee on February 10. Further participation from other NBA teams is expected to be announced in 2020. The campaign’s goal is to highlight stories of hope and redemption, as well as break down stigmas associated with individuals — primarily people of color and the poor — impacted by the criminal justice system.

“We’re proud to be the first participant in the Play for Justice initiative, which is shining a bright light on the unique issues facing incarcerated people in communities around the country,” said Vivek Ranadivé, chairman, CEO and governor of the Kings. “Sports franchises have a unique opportunity to bring about positive change, which is why in the past year, the Kings and the Bucks brought together leaders from across two cities to share best practices and find new solutions to social injustices. This collaboration with Represent Justice is another example of how we can use our platforms for good.”

Kings forward Trevor Ariza and player development coach Rico Hines are expected to take part in Thursday’s sit-down conversation with incarcerated people and formerly incarcerated surrogates of the Represent Justice Campaign, including Adnan Khan, who was released from prison after serving 16 years for a felony murder conviction that was overturned in January. After the discussion, Ariza and Hines will serve as honorary coaches during a basketball game with the roundtable participants in front of approximately 500 residents. Kings head coach Luke Walton is also expected to play.

Actress and Sacramento native Brie Larson–star of the upcoming movie, Just Mercy, which is based on Bryan Stevenson’s best-selling book about the case of Walter McMillian, who was convicted and sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit–and cast will participate in future Play For Justice initiatives. The Bucks are slated to host five screenings of the film, which also features actors Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx, in January and February for nonprofits to attend.

At the Bucks’ upcoming Represent Justice event to be played indoors in Wisconsin, Nike plans to donate sneakers to the basketball game for the incarcerated players and other participants. The sneakers and clothing will be mailed to the incarcerated players’ families, who will be able to attend the event, since the residents cannot keep the articles while imprisoned. Bucks guards Sterling Brown and George Hill will be in attendance.

“My teammates, coaches and I are honored to take part in this unique criminal justice initiative to hear the stories of our community members and the challenges they face on a daily basis,” said Brown, who currently has a civil suit against the city of Milwaukee after its cops used a stun gun on him and arrested him on Jan. 26, 2018, for double-parking in a handicapped-accessible spot at a Walgreens. “We are looking forward to sharing in this experience with them while also identifying how we can further this important conversation nationwide through basketball.”

Represent Justice 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, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and Witness to Innocence.

The Kings and Bucks also partnered together last February for the first Team Up for Change summit in Sacramento, California, to address social injustice by bringing together community leaders. The Bucks will host the second summit with the Kings in February in Milwaukee.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.