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Sterling Brown Incident Inspires Milwaukee Bucks To Host Social Justice Forum

Bucks, Sacramento Kings Launched 'Team Up For Change' Last Year

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Milwaukee Bucks sign outside Fiserv Forum
Mary Antlfinger/AP Photo

In 2018, Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown was confronted by officers after he parked his car illegally across two handicap parking spaces outside a Walgreens. The incident ended with Brown being tackled and tasered by Milwaukee police.

The same year, an unarmed black man named Stephon Clark was shot and killed by police in Sacramento. Clark was in his grandmother’s backyard when officers mistook his cell phone for a gun.

The two events happened thousands of miles apart, but they served as the inspiration for a seminar that took place Sunday and Monday at Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum.

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Sports can help unite communities, and professional teams should use their platforms to improve their cities. That was the message Monday from Bucks executives during “Team Up For Change,” a two-day summit on social justice and racial inequality.

The Sacramento Kings hosted the first installment of the event last year. This time it was in Milwaukee, featuring speakers from local nonprofits and advocacy groups, a private screening of the film “Just Mercy” and a keynote address from nationally renowned poet, Clint Smith.

Zion Rogers, a 16-year-old student at Rufus King High School, set the tone Monday with a poem about the inequality she’s seen growing up in Milwaukee.

“Here in the Fiserv, Giannis is flying high every night, but over just six blocks from here on Walnut, Center Street, Lincoln Avenue, Burleigh, Keefe, Mitchell and Teutonia, the bullets, the unemployment rates and the education gaps between black youth and white youth are all flying much higher than our amazing Greek Freak ever will,” she said.

According to a 2019 report from the Economic Policy Institute, racial disparities are widespread in the Midwest. In Wisconsin, black students are suspended at five times the rate of white students. African Americans are also imprisoned at five times the rate of white residents.

The event ended with a panel discussion featuring Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, Bucks Senior Vice President Alex Lasry, Kings Vice Chairman Paul Jacobs and Sacramento nonprofit executive Chet Hewitt.

“The first reason we do this is because it’s the right thing to do,” Jacobs said. “You look out at the injustice and what’s going on in the system and you want to make things right.”

Leaders from both the Bucks and the Kings talked about how their players have gone to visit prisons in their respective communities. Jacobs said the visits help shine a light on the high rate of incarceration among people of color and “humanize people who are often forgotten.”

Lasry said the Bucks organization is willing to put itself in “uncomfortable situations” if that’s what it takes to achieve progress. He also announced the Milwaukee Bucks Foundation will donate $100,000 to fight social injustice in southeast Wisconsin.

This discussion was moderated by Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated. He said he didn’t know if any other professional sports franchises would take part in an event like this.

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