The Los Angeles Sparks continue to bring awareness to health and social issues by having a panel discussion with L.A. County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer. Sparks stars Nneka Ogwumike and Candace Parker along with head coach Derek Fisher hosted the discussion.
Along with talking about the dangers COVID-19, they talked about the dangers of smoking and vaping. Ferrar mentioned how COVID-19 has affected Black and Brown communities at higher rates. To improve health in marginalized communities, these communities must organize to fight for justice.
“Everybody needs the resources to be healthy, to live in healthy communities,” Ferrer said. “It’s not right that people of color disproportionally live in communities that have higher rates of pollution, that are next to gas and oil fields, that have not good places for people to walk.”
The Sparks wore warm up shirts that said “Never Stop Quitting Smoking” before their game against the Indiana Fever on August 15.
“If kids have parents that smoke, there are ways that we as the Sparks are trying to reach out in the community and encourage people to stop smoking,” Parker said.
Ferrer expressed that fruit and candy flavored vaping products are “an insidious marketing tool to get kids addicted to nicotine.”
“They made it sound cool and they marketed it for the last few years as a safe alternative to tobacco,” Ferrer said. “It’s filled with nicotine and at rates that it’s not even clear when you are vaping exactly how much nicotine you are getting.”
Parker asked Ferrer about how parents can talk to their kids about smoking and vaping. Ferrer provided the hotline 1(800)662-8887 and the website www.nobutts.org for people who are trying to quit.
Staying home and staying safe during the time of the pandemic can be easier for people who have jobs that allow them to stay home. Quarantining is easier for people with bigger houses and small households.
“On the news, everyone spoke about how [COVID-19] is the great equalizer and I quickly realized as I sat in my own home … I had a certain privilege,” Ogwumike said. “I’m not necessarily an essential worker that needs to be out there.”
Ferrer noted how workplaces must keep their workers safe. She recalled how workers at a manufacturing plant were exposed to the virus.
“Our factories, our manufacturing class, they have to actually put in place all the protections that workers have to have,” Ferrer said. “You can’t really blame the people for getting sick at that plant, that would be the worst injustice.”
Several coaches had reached out to Fisher about tips on working with youth athletes during this time. Ferrer noted the L.A. County has allowed youth and high school sports a limited amount of activities.
“You can bring your team together, they have to be physically distanced for all the activities and they have to be no contact,” Ferrer said. “They can be skill building and they can be conditioning … everything has to be outside in L.A. County.”
Ferrer told Fisher, Ogwumike and Parker how their performance during games give people hope and how their voices are a big help in bringing awareness to health issues.
“I want you all to recognize how much power you have,” Ferrer said. “You all speak from the heart and you all are doing an amazing job keeping yourselves, your family, community safe.”