Windy City Hoops | Up next
Chicago’s about-face on basketball and crime.
Neighborhood basketball hasn’t always been a slam dunk in Chicago. Community activists and politicians have decried Park District courts as hotbeds of gang activity and drug dealing rather than hubs of sportsmanship.
So it’s curious the city has now adopted b-ball as a crime-reduction technique. On February 19, Mayor Emanuel—alongside Chicago native Isiah Thomas, the elbow-throwing nemesis of the Jordan-era Bulls—announced the launch of Windy City Hoops, a weekend basketball league for kids ages 12 to 17 in ’hoods plagued by violence. “Basketball programming has a proven impact on youth by providing an alternative to drugs, gangs and violence,” Emanuel said in a release.
Teen leagues will open in ten parks in eight areas “chosen according to high crime levels, low median income and regional influence of the park facility”: Austin, East Garfield Park, Englewood, North Lawndale, Rogers Park, Roseland, Woodlawn—and one in Kenwood not far from President Obama’s home. “We find when children and young adults are engaged in recreation they are safest,” says Park District spokeswoman Jessica Maxey-Faulkner.
For the first time, the city has launched an online fund-raising campaign. Windy City Hoops’s Indiegogo page—overseen by the Park District’s foundation—seeks $480,000 to pay for things like jerseys and referees. The mayor’s press secretary, Tarrah Cooper, isn’t even considering falling short. “We’re hopeful people will step up,” she says, “and give Chicago’s children a safe and productive opportunity to learn team and leadership skills that will help them succeed on and off the court.”
Contribute to Windy City Hoops through April 20 at igg.me/at/windycityhoops.