Nets, Liberty and St. John’s start law course for HS students

Throughout the NBA reboot in Orlando – before and after this week’s boycotts – player executives from LeBron James to Garrett Temple have warned that real change is not happening with words, but with action. .

For players, the action meant boycotting playoff games in response to a police officer shooting at another unarmed black man, Jacob Blake. For the Nets and Liberty, that meant backing up their words not only with their wealth but their work.

Even before team owners Joe and Clara Wu Tsai pledged $ 50 million to social justice causes, parent company BSE Global partnered with St. John’s School of Law on a high school program. underserved, teaching civil rights and sports law to show minority youth that there is in fact a path for them through the law.

“My intention – and this was the intention of the Long Island Nets – was how to make an impact in the community? How do we become a community asset? … This is something I thought would have durability for years to come, ”said Alton Byrd, vice president of business operations for the G-League Long Island Nets. “It’s a way to really make people aware of the challenges we face as a race of people, as a country. “

Only 5 percent of lawyers in the United States are black, a similar amount from Latino. Hence the summer program.

“This is how we educate people about the law and civil rights at a young age, where they can really walk in with their hands and feet and ask questions, challenge each other and us,” Byrd told the Post. “They learn about life, freedom – or the lack of it – and how to build a potential career around it.”

What started out as a small two-week program this month will grow into the future, in terms of duration, students, and reach.

“We thought we were offering something virtual but meaningful,” said Elaine M. Chiu, professor of law in St. John’s. “That was the genesis: saving COVID summers for children and doing some innovative substantive things that we had already thought of. ”

Kamille Dean, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at St. John’s School of Law, and her husband are seasonal members of the Long Island Nets. She spoke to Byrd during a game in February, starting a sports law simulation program for high school students.

“There is a crisis when we talk about African Americans in particular entering law school,” Dean told The Post. “We don’t see equivalent numbers for the African American population enrolling in law school. There are a lot of reasons why: some of its barriers, and some are systemic racism.

“There is a serious problem when we talk about injustice in the criminal justice system that disproportionately weighs on African American families, and especially black men. … This is part of expanding the pipeline to make sure we are not losing talented young people, but keeping an eye out for black men in particular that we are losing to the school to prison pipeline.

Students were paired with BSE Global staff as mentors and received hours of virtual tours from sports law and social justice practitioners such as American University Law Professor Jeremi Duru and Professor of Stanford Law Robert Weisberg, ESB Legal Director Jeff Gewirtz and Nets Russell Deputy General Counsel. Yavner.

But it was the Zoom guest on the last day of the program that thrilled the students. Temple – who started the entire playoff series against Toronto, slipping education reform on his jersey – is studying for LSAT with an eye on law school.

And after Temple spoke about the wealth gap – with black families having only a tenth of the net wealth that white families enjoy, according to the U.S. Federal Reserve – a student said he was inspired to attend law school.

“In the country we live in – the world we live in – we need to see as many different faces as possible in the legal process to help change the marginalization of people like us in this country,” Temple told students. . “The Black Lives Matter movement has been amazing, but it started long before the tragic death of Trayvon Martin, the tragic death of Eric Garner.”

And that of George Floyd. And that of Breonna Taylor. And now Blake, who is paralyzed from waist to toe after being shot seven times in the back.

“What I’m doing right now is long-term play,” Temple said. “Unfortunately the things we want to see changed politically, some of them are long term games.”

Nancy I. Romero

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