Ben Simmons of the Brooklyn Nets has teamed up with RISE, the premier national organization devoted to eradicating racism through sport, to help underprivileged youngsters in Brooklyn by giving them the resources they need to confront issues of racism, discrimination, and inclusivity in their neighborhoods.


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At the Nets’ HSS Training Center, the eight-week leadership program began on Saturday, Sept. 24. The first round of the program, which runs from now through November 12, involves teenagers from Good Shepherd Services.

Participants in the program will be given the opportunity to collaborate in groups to create projects that creatively address important issues of inequality and injustice affecting their communities. In order to debate how they may put their ideas into practice to spur genuine change, each group will showcase their artistic endeavors to Simmons, other athletes, and social justice specialists at the conclusion of the eight-week period.

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“I’m excited to partner with RISE, we have the same belief that sport has the power to unite people from all different backgrounds and drive positive change,” said Simmons. “To be able to connect with youth in Brooklyn and create opportunities for future leaders in the community is important to me.”

Participants in the program will play basketball with and learn directly from seasoned instructors from the Brooklyn Nets Basketball Academy while also continuing to hone their leadership abilities both on and off the court. Through RISE’s experiential learning program, students will also have open discussions on issues like racial diversity, leadership, and community development. As part of the leadership program, the group will also receive mental health tools to assist them in overcoming the various obstacles they encounter. Additionally, safe spaces will be created so that difficult but essential dialogues about race and community may take place.

“Addressing racism and creating inclusive and equitable communities demands long-term, intentional action, and requires education, skill development and the ability to engage in difficult conversations with people who have different perspectives and experiences than your own,” said RISE Chief Program Officer Dr. Andrew Mac Intosh. “Sports have the power to unite people of all backgrounds and can be the conduit for creating positive social change. When athletes like Ben Simmons act as true leaders and invest in communities through programs like these, it can have a tremendous impact.”