The Los Angeles Clippers and the Los Angeles Police Department don’t just talk about connecting and being part of the communities they serve; they back it up. Through a grant provided by the California Endowment, the Clippers and the LAPD have forged a partnership to produce a brief gateway from the hardened streets of South Los Angeles for some young men and women looking to occupy their time in a positive way.
That getaway is called the Los Angeles Clippers Late Night Hoops, a basketball league comprised of eleven recreation centers with about 150 young adults participating in it. For those young people, whose ages range from 18 to 25, playing in the Los Angeles Clippers Late Night Hoops league for 17 weeks at the Rancho Cienega Sports Complex in Los Angeles, this means they have a safe haven to go to.
At least for a few months, instead of getting caught up in the weariness of street life, those young people can find relief pounding the hardwood and shooting jump shots. It also means the league is a way for the LAPD to actively take part in their community policing program in an indirect way.
“Late night basketball is really important because it gives primarily young men a place to be at night, but it also builds community,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said prior to the league’s first game officially kicked off the season last week. “We have teams from all over the city that compete, they meet each other. L. A. is a city that is, unfortunately, torn by violence, which leaves young men that need to find a connection or try finding a different way to work out conflict. Basketball is one way to do that.
“We have had such great luck with late night basketball in bringing our various communities together…On the part of it, it’s so important to have the police department involved because it is an opportunity to meet people on a totally different level, to build relationships in non-stress situations, situations that normally build friendships that bond so they can translate when we have times that are more difficult.”
The Clippers Late Night Hoops program was kicked-started and became successful during the 1990’s, thanks in large part to the Los Angeles Clippers existing partnership with the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks and the Los Angeles Police Department.
As a result of that positive interaction between these entities, the Clippers Late Night Hoops program became more beneficiaries in more ways than one, and included more than just a few basketball games.
The program also consisted of counseling and promotion of non-violent conflict resolution, educational/scholarship opportunities, employment referral and organized recreational and cultural activities. Participants made choices to change and improve their lives. And for many participating athletes, the league provided hope and opportunity.
Clippers stars Caron Butler, Kenyon Martin and Randy Foye were all on hand for the league’s opening game, and say they plan to be more actively involved once the NBA season has concluded. Butler said he knows all too well how a league like the Clippers Late Night Hoops league can help a young person in need of positive re-enforcement.
“I come from a league just like this,” Butler said. “It was to keep guys off the streets during the troubling hours and through the adversity and everything that was going on out there. We had coaches who had been through a lot, who had been through the penitentiary, people who’ve been through a lot, and through the trials and tribulations of life in the streets. This is identical. This is an opportunity for them…It’s a great thing.”