The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced today that NBA Legend Sam Perkins and NBA Global Ambassador Dikembe Mutombo will travel as sports envoys to the Republic of South Sudan October 22-26, 2011.
The envoys will work to engage and empower underserved youth on the court and in the classroom, in the world’s newest country. Sports diplomacy builds on Secretary Clinton’s vision of “smart power” diplomacy. It embraces the use of a full range of diplomatic tools, including sports, to bring people together for greater understanding.
During their trip to Juba, Perkins and Mutombo will lead a series of basketball clinics and teambuilding exercises with young people ages 12-25. In addition, the sports diplomats will meet with young people participating in a scholarship program that works to bridge barriers and provide gender equality in education for women and girls, as well as underserved boys. They will also join local, state, and national government officials in a public service project in the capital city of Juba.
As an NBA Global Ambassador, Mutombo has been actively involved with the NBA’s Basketball without Borders Africa 2011 program in Johannesburg, where the league opened an office in 2010. This is his first trip as a sports envoy on behalf of the Department of State. Sam Perkins, a 17-year NBA veteran, made three NBA Finals appearances, one each with the Los Angeles Lakers, Seattle Supersonics, and Indiana Pacers. Perkins has served as a sports diplomat worldwide, including Indonesia (2010), Qatar (2009), Kazakhstan & Kyrgyzstan (2008), and Algeria (2005).
Sports envoys are current and retired professional athletes and coaches who travel overseas to conduct drills and team building activities, as well as engage youth in a dialogue on the importance of education, positive health practices and respect for diversity. Previous sports envoys include: Miami Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra; NBA Hall of Famer George “The Iceman” Gervin; and WNBA basketball greats Cynthia Cooper and Sue Wicks. In partnership with SportsUnited, 42 NBA and WNBA players and coaches have visited 19 different countries since 2004, where they have conducted basketball clinics for thousands of young boys, girls and coaches.
SportsUnited is the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ premier sports exchange program at the U.S. Department of State. Athletes and coaches from a range of sports are chosen to conduct clinics and visit schools, and engage with youth overseas in a dialogue on the importance of an education, positive health practices, and respect for diversity. Since 2003, SportsUnited has brought more than 600 athletes from 44 countries to the U.S. to participate in Sport Visitor programs. Since 2005, SportsUnited has sent more than 100 U.S. athletes to 40 countries to participate in Sport Envoy programs.
For more information on sports diplomacy, contact Talley Sergent, U.S. Department of State, at SergentRT@state.gov. Media interested in covering the sports diplomats during their trip to South Sudan should contact Phaedra Gwyn, U.S. Embassy in Juba, at GwynPM@state.gov.