NBA stars support campaign to end gun violence in new spot


Brian Mahoney

AP Basketball Writer

NEW YORK — Stephen Curry heard about a shooting involving a 3-year-old girl over the summer.

“My daughter Riley is that age,” he said.

That begins a public service announcement that debuts on Christmas and features four NBA stars lending their voices to the campaign to end gun violence.

Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Joakim Noah also are featured in the spot in support of Everytown for Gun Safety, the nation’s largest violence prevention organization in the country.

“The gun should never be an option,” Anthony says in the spot that will air during the league’s heavily viewed holiday schedule.

President Barack Obama, in a tweet while on vacation in Hawaii, said he was proud of the NBA for “taking a stand against gun violence. Sympathy for victims isn’t enough — change requires all of us speaking up.”

Director and basketball fan Spike Lee is a member of Everytown’s creative council and worked to get the league and its players involved in what Jason Rzepka, the group’s director of cultural engagement, calls a “new high-water mark for our work.”

“I think (Lee) sensed and saw that our guys were feeling that same passion that he had and he reached out to Adam (Silver) and said I want to do something about this and I think we should do it together, and we thought it was a good idea,” said Kathy Behrens, the NBA’s president of social responsibility and player programs.

“The guys really wanted to kind of put their voices behind this, and so we like the way it’s come together and I think the guys speak very passionately about the issue of trying to end gun violence, trying to make their communities stronger and safer for families.”

The players are joined during the 32-second spot by survivors of gun violence and others who are holding pictures of loved ones who were killed.

“We could not be more thrilled about this as a platform to be able to reach new audiences, to continue to focus the country’s attention on the fact that 88 Americans die as a result of gun violence each day,” Rzepka said.

The project came together within the last month, and Behrens said more players would have wanted to be involved if they had more time. Even so, Rzepka said the organization never had such involvement from professional athletes, calling it “pretty remarkable to have survivors of gun violence standing shoulder to shoulder with some of the biggest stars.”

The spot ends with the voice of Curry, whose daughter charmed fans during Golden State’s playoff run, saying, “We can end gun violence.”

The Bulls’ Noah, in Chicago, and Anthony, in his hometown of Baltimore, have been particularly vocal about making their cities safer. Behrens said the league’s involvement was a natural fit, in line with other community service initiatives such as the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper program.

“You need to raise awareness and you need to do it in a way that makes people realize there is something that they can do, and that’s really how the spot ends,” she said. “We can do something about this and that’s the point. If we can then we should.”

Brian Mahoney

AP Basketball Writer

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