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Lakers focus on making positive social changes

Weeks after the team issued a statement condemning “racism, bigotry, violence and prejudice in all its forms” the Los Angeles Lakers announced a pair of moves to aid in their mission to spur positive social change.

The Lakers announced the hiring of Karida Brown as the team’s director of racial equity and action on Thursday and also declared the team and staff would take Friday, June 19, off in order to observe Juneteenth.

Brown, an oral historian and assistant professor of African American studies and sociology at UCLA, is tasked with educating Lakers employees about the issues facing black and brown people in the United States and facilitating the team’s outreach efforts to combat systemic racism.

“We are very happy to have Dr. Brown join the team,” said Tim Harris, Lakers chief coordinating officer and president of business operations, in a statement. “She will play a key role in implementing educational programming on race and racism for our employees and helping us focus on racial equity in our day-to-day functions, as well as empowering the organization to identify ways to be more active participants in affecting real change.”

Brown did not waste time in her new role, taking part in a group call with the organization on Thursday, according to a team spokesperson, and is planning to spearhead regular “town hall” style discussions within the team in the future.

On Friday, the Lakers are encouraging employees to use their time off on Juneteenth to further educate themselves on both the history and current state of race relations in the U.S., according to a team spokesperson.

Friday marks the 155th anniversary of the release of all enslaved persons in Texas — the last of the states to do so — on June 19, 1865.

In conjunction with the time off, the Lakers have also planned several charitable outreach efforts. They have pledged to donate iPads to four organizations: 4WRD Progress, a South L.A.-based group focused on providing opportunities for minority youth; Watts Skills Academy, a group founded by two Los Angeles Police Department officers aimed at bringing basketball and education to youth throughout the Watts Development Projects; Crete Academy, a South L.A. charter school in which 30% of the student body lacks permanent housing; and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro L.A., which serve more than 1,900 youth across five locations.

The Lakers are also sponsoring a five-part virtual series hosted by Game Changer, an organization that hopes to spark open dialogue in the community between at-risk youth and law enforcement agents.

Los Angeles is the eighth most racially diverse large city in the country, according to a 2018 study by the U.S. News & World Report.

In the days following the death of George Floyd, who was killed while in police custody when Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck, Lakers players issued a shared statement to their social media accounts as protesters took to the streets of L.A.

“If YOU ain’t wit US, WE ain’t wit Y’ALL!” the statement, organized by guard Avery Bradley, read.

Apart from the educational efforts that Brown will lead, the Lakers have made reading materials on the subject of racial inequality available and have given their staff an opportunity to screen the film, “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” about the U.S. congressman and civil rights leader.

Brown will report directly to Harris and also work closely with the team’s human resources department, which engages in regular dialogue with NBA executive vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer Oris Stuart and his representatives.

The NBA requires that each of its 30 teams has someone on staff to head diversity and inclusion within the organization. The roles vary by title, but everyone in that position serves as the liaison between their team and the league’s diversity and inclusion office, led by Stuart since 2015, to execute programs and be a guide and a resource for support in those areas.

Brown comes to the Lakers after authoring two books — “Gone Home: Race and Roots through Appalachia” and “The Sociology of W.E.B. Du Bois: Racialized Modernity and the Global Color Line” (co-authored with José Itzigsohn) — as well as serving on the boards for both The Obama Presidency Oral History Project and the Du Boisian Scholar Network.

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