Today in London – the host city of the 2012 Olympic Games – the U.S. Department of State and the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced a joint effort that will send current and former professional basketball players from the NBA and the WNBA to engage underserved youth both on the basketball court and within their communities in 10 countries. In addition to the United Kingdom, the players will lead programs this year in Angola, China, Greece, and Indonesia. The Department and the NBA will also welcome young athletes and coaches from Kazakhstan, Nicaragua, Thailand, Tunisia, Ukraine, and Zimbabwe to the United States this spring. The full lineup of players involved will be released at a later date.
Sports diplomacy builds on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vision of “smart power,” which embraces the full range of diplomatic tools – in this case the game of basketball – to bring people together to foster greater understanding.
From March 25-29, former NBA player Sam Perkins and current WNBA player Swintayla “Swin” Cash will travel to the United Kingdom to lead basketball clinics and start a dialogue with young people in Tower Hamlets and Hackney, two boroughs that will host Olympic competitions this summer. Perkins and Cash will also engage with youth from the greater London area and Birmingham, where they will discuss the importance of teamwork, respect for diversity, and education.
Perkins has traveled six times as a sports envoy, including to Algeria, Indonesia, and South Sudan. This is the first trip for Cash, who is a forward for the WNBA’s Chicago Sky.
Beginning April 1, Ashley Robinson, who plays center for the Washington Mystics, and Tracy Murray, the coach of the Tulsa Shock, will travel to Greece, the birthplace of the Olympic Games. In partnership with the Government of Greece, Robinson and Murray will conduct basketball clinics for youth in Athens and Thessaloniki.
Through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ SportsUnited Division, the U.S. Department of State conducts sports exchange programs to engage youth worldwide. Athletes and coaches in various sports are selected to conduct clinics, visit schools, and lead dialogues on the importance of an education, teamwork, and respect for diversity.
Previous sports envoy program diplomats include: Willie Green of the New Orleans Hornets; Miami Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra; NBA Legend Billy Owens; and WNBA basketball greats Cynthia Cooper and Sue Wicks. Since 2004, in partnership with SportsUnited, 42 NBA and WNBA players and coaches have visited 19 different countries, where they have conducted hundreds of basketball clinics for thousands of young boys and girls and coaches.
For more information, contact Talley Sergent, U.S. Department of State, at SergentRT@state.gov.