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NBA All-Star Game will pay homage to HBCUs

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The NBA is paying homage to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in a variety of ways during the NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta on Sunday.

In collaboration with several corporate partners, the league will provide more than $3 million in funds to HBCUs via the Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF), UNCF (United Negro College Fund) and Direct Relief’s Fund for Health Equity.

Through contributions and awareness, the NBA and its partners will further the urgent and longstanding work and traditions of these organizations and institutions to create greater educational, financial and health equity. The All-Star game will also support communities of color disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

A major highlight of the HBCU theme on Sunday is the debut of the game’s referee crew composed entirely of graduates of historically black colleges and universities for the first time in league history.

In his 30th season as an NBA official, Tom Washington, a graduate of Norfolk State University, will be the crew chief for the game. He will be joined by officials Courtney Kirkland, an alumnus of Southern University, and Tony Brown, an alum of Clark Atlanta University. This will be Washington’s third All-Star Game and Kirkland and Brown’s second.

“This is just as, if not more, a proud moment,” Washington told ESPN. “Actually recognizing the heritage of the HBCUs and me being a part of it and hopefully representing it in a most honorable way along the way.”

“The fact that the NBA is taking time to honor and put HBCUs out in front is actually humbling,” Washington added. “It is an honor and privilege.”

During the All-Star game, the Western Conference and Eastern Conference teams will play for either TMCF (47 publicly supported HBCUs) or UNCF (37 member colleges), which will provide scholarship funding (each organization will receive $500,000, the leading team’s organization will receive an additional $150,000 after each of the first three quarters, and the fourth quarter will be worth $300,000).

Similar donations will be made throughout the night, with participants in the dunk contest paired with HBCUs, and through the TMCF COVID-19 HBCU Emergency Fund, financial support will be provided that will benefit students, faculty or programs that address emergency aid, technology needs, food insecurities and mental-health services exacerbated by the pandemic.

Throughout the night, HBCUs will be showcased through performances, unique content and storytelling, and the NBA will also continue education and awareness efforts around important public health and safety communications. Earlier this week, the NBA revealed the All-Star Game courts will feature HBCU related imagery.  

The National Basketball Players Association will also use the platform, influence and impact of All-Star to increase education around the importance of HBCUs and continue their longstanding engagement and support of these institutions. 

For the past three years, the union has hosted the NBPA Top 50 camps featuring twenty-five of the best players from the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) for on-court skill development and leadership and life skills sessions off the court led by current and retired NBA players. 

Additionally, the NBPA Foundation has continued to support HBCU student-athletes through summer school scholarship resources that help facilitate the path to graduation goals for the past two years, including this past year for those who have been particularly impacted by COVID-19.

Kudos to the NBA for putting HBCUs at the forefront during All-Star 2021!