“Gun violence is a problem in the inner city and we were in the process of doing something to raise awareness,” said Andy Borman, executive director of the RENS, a grassroots basketball program. “But after we had two of our own players shot and one of our former players shot and killed his girlfriend we sat back and said, ‘Good God, this is bad.’ Something has to be done. Now.”
Borman, the nephew of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and a member of the Blue Devils’ 2001 NCAA championship team, said all 200 RENS student-athletes — in grades 3 through 11 — are now wearing an orange emblem on their uniforms, and they have encouraged other AAU programs plus high school and college teams to do the same.
The Clippers’ Chris Paul tweeted two days ago that his AAU team “will be backing this initiative.” Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also tweeted thanks to the RENS and Paul for “#wearingorange and fighting gun violence.”
Two years ago, Bloomberg announced a $50 million commitment to fight gun violence. The group, Everytown For Gun Safety, has teamed with the RENS. The AAU program is also working with Sandy Hook Promise, a non-profit organization set up in the wake of the 2012 massacre with the aim of ending gun violence.
Several mothers of who lost their own children in the Sandy Hook shooting will speak to the RENS teams, coaches and parents in an attempt to create healthier choices for all children.
“Orange is the color of safety,” Borman said. “We are in no way trying to make a political statement. We’re simply trying to raise awareness and hope that more teams do the same. We have to make a statement. A ball can change the world.”
The RENS were founded four years ago and have already become a top program on the national AAU circuit. The RENS have players already enrolled in or committed to UConn, St. John’s, Auburn, Indiana, Xavier and Hofstra as well as several top Division II and Division III programs. One star player, Tyrek Chambers, wasn’t so lucky. He was struck in the back by a single bullet during a drive-by shooting three months ago in Brownsville. Chambers still has the bullet lodged in his back and is hoping to return to the basketball court once his internal wounds heal.
“This has to stop,” Borman said. “That’s why we got involved. These are our kids. This is happening everywhere.”
Borman is hoping that other high-profile NBA players who sponsor AAU teams, including Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, will follow Paul’s lead and join the campaign. Sacred Heart High School in Waterbury, Conn., the NYC Jayhawks, Hilltopper Heat (N.J.) and Brooklyn’s Tilden High School have already joined the movement.
Borman says that a soccer program in Chicago and a Denver-based girls basketball team have inquired about the campaign. The RENS believe that by empowering their own players they can affect both conversation and change.
“I hope that every game someone will look at the orange patch and ask ‘What is that?’” Borman said. “What we’re trying to do here is necessary at this time. We don’t want this to be a flash-in-the-pan movement. We’re in this for the long haul.”
Date Posted: Tuesday, November 10th, 2015 , Total Page Views: 1191
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