Cavaliers, NBA expand All-Star impact with community events
When Kevin Clayton returned home in 2019 to work as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement, he knew there was a moment in the city’s history. he wanted to highlight – June 4, 1967, Cleveland Summit.
The summit brought together top black athletes such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown and Bill Russell at the former black industrial building on the east side of town, where they publicly showed their support for the objector position of awareness of Muhammad Ali on the Vietnam War.
“It was my personal passion to shed some light on the Summit in some way,” said Clayton, who was promoted earlier this month to senior vice president, responsible for social impact and equity.
It was supposed to happen during February’s All-Star festivities, when Abdul-Jabbar and Russell were in town for the NBA’s 75th anniversary celebration, but bad weather and the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Cavaliers to postpone the game. event in mid-June, where it served as the culmination of seven community outreach/social impact events over three days in Greater Cleveland.
On Friday, June 17, a group of city leaders, politicians, Cavaliers employees and NBA officials gathered to unveil a historical marker at this time at its original site at 10501 Euclid Ave., now the location of the American Cancer Society. The group included former Cleveland Browns defensive back Walter Beach, who turns 90 in six months.
“Hearing his stories of why the Summit started and the impact it had on his life…and seeing him moved to tears to know that the community recognized the Summit was the most powerful moment. from last week,” Clayton said.
Clayton had several moments to choose from, including:
- Cavaliers 75th NBA live, learn or play legacy draft. The project included a ribbon cutting for the Mindfulness Learning Space at the Earle B. Turner Neighborhood Resource Center.
- The Jr. NBA celebration at the Cavs Academy camp. The multi-day youth basketball camp was held at Independence Field House.
- An NBA All-Star FIT celebration. The NBA has partnered with Kaiser Permanente on a new basketball court and wellness and education spaces at Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs in Northeast Ohio – King Kennedy Branch.
- An Adaptive Sports Wheelchair Basketball Clinic at the Broadway Boys and Girls Club, which included youth from Empower Sports, Adaptive Sports Ohio, and Achievement Centers for Children.
- Grand opening of a basketball court at Studio West 117 Community Center, which included a new basketball facility and community space for local LGBTQ youth.
- An NBA Foundation pitch competition at the Cleveland Metropolitan Conference Center: Seven college-age entrepreneurs from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) pitched their business concepts for a chance to win capital. The entrepreneurs were part of BGV’s NextGen program, an NBA Foundation grantee.
Like the summit marker, the events were originally scheduled for February, but January’s COVID-19 spike prompted the league to reschedule them for June to coincide not only with Juneteenth but also Pride Month.
“It was huge for the NBA to bring those events back,” Clayton said. “They never did that. Usually when All-Star events are canceled the league doesn’t come back. And doing it in June when the weather was better and COVID wasn’t at its peak, that allowed our community to come out in a more robust way. It allowed us to reach more people than if we had done this during All-Star.
The events complemented All-Star’s impact in February, which included the NBA and NBA Players Association donating more than $3 million to community organizations in Greater Cleveland and HBCUs. But last week’s activities weren’t designed to shine a light on the NBA, said NBA senior vice president, social responsibility Todd Jacobson.
“It’s about shining a light on our partners who do the work day in and day out,” Jacobson said. “I hope this creates an opportunity for others to support them and help their organizations grow and continue to do great things in the Cleveland community.”
The 2022 NBA All-Star, held Feb. 18-20, provided the region with $141.4 million in direct spending and a total economic impact of $248.9 million, according to Center research. Sports Industry Research Center at Temple University.
But All-Star’s impact has always been designed to make a lasting difference, especially in Cleveland neighborhoods and minority-owned businesses.
“Whether it’s new facilities for the LGBTQ community, the historic marker, a Juneteenth celebration, or youth basketball or adaptive sports programs – we want people to know that all organizations behind these events are doing an amazing job and they don’t get the time and attention they deserve,” Jacobson said. “Our hope is that by sharing the story, and that others l learn and read it, people will see it. And for us to play a small part in it is incredible.”
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