Sports can’t save the lives of our youth, but they can influence and possibly change the direction for adolescents and teens looking for options. At least that’s the hope that Chicago community leaders had as they organized the “Balling For Peace” basketball tournament, which was held this past Saturday afternoon.
Organized by St. Sabina’s Father Michael Pfleger, the event was geared towards ending the ongoing violence among the city’s youth by inviting 28 kids from four different gangs to hoop together as part of a one day truce. In a show of support, several of the city’s sports stars – Derrick Rose, Isiah Thomas, Antoine Walker, Joakim Noah, Quentin Richardson and Taj Gibson – filled in as honorary coaches and doubled as fans cheering on the participants.
Father Pfleger, who lost his adopted son Jarvis Franklin to gang violence in 1998, said he’s been working for years to organize the event and felt it was even more imperative now given the rise of violence. “You walk in that gym and you see the passion, the excitement, you see the smiles on the kids’ faces, you see kids who used to shoot each other playing ball with each other, You see D-Rose and Joakim Noah,” said Pfleger. “You tell me anything is wrong with this? I’m in heaven right now.”
Other community leaders believe in Pfleger’s vision and hope that other athletes and more kids get involved. Community activist Andrew Holmes pointed out that “There’s life after basketball, but there is no life after discharging a weapon and taking someone else’s life.”
And, knowing there is life after basketball, the event’s end didn’t come just because the final buzzer sounded. All of the of 28 players who participated will each receive jobs.