The National Basketball Wives Association (NBWA) held their annual conference this weekend in Los Angeles with this year’s theme of “Building A Living Legacy.” The conference kicked off with 30 members of the association meeting with the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), a Los Angeles based nonprofit, at one of its sites, located at the Los Angeles Regional Taskforce on Human Trafficking.
“My heart and stomach are still clenching,” Mia Wright, president of the NBWA, told the Los Angeles Sentinel after leaving the taskforce site. She spoke to the dichotomy of the meeting between the wives and girlfriends of NBA players, and the survivors of human trafficking.
“It is polar opposite,” said Wright, the wife of NBA Champion Dorell Wright. “We are in this cocoon of the NBA lifestyle, so being able to have that experience with women who are literally living a polar opposite journey than we are and being able to connect with them, just based on the fact that at the end of the day we are all women, means a lot.”
The members gathered in a room and heard the stories of three survivors who are a part of the Survivor Advisory Caucus. As each survivor candidly shared vivid accounts of their experiences, Kay Buck, CEO of CAST said, “There were a lot of tears in people’s eyes because it was hard to hear about the violence and trauma.” Buck described the day as, “a meeting of sisterhood.”
CAST has supported thousands of survivors through their journey to freedom by offering, counseling, legal resources, housing, educational and leadership training and mentorship. One of the first items a survivor receives is an emergency response backpack, stocked with basic essentials. The NBWA members assembled 100 emergency response backpacks while gaining perspective and education on how to bring awareness to this global issue.
“The [survivors] have directly impacted our members and motivated us to be more vocal on what’s happening, using our public appeal,” Wright said. “No one is focused on what another person is wearing and material things, we are compassionate women who want to see people thrive.”
The partnership with CAST originated in the Spring, as the young ladies who went missing in the Washington D.C. area outraged members of the NBWA executive board. It was then, that the NBWA leadership decided it was important to bring public awareness to human trafficking. Jada Paul, wife of Rocket’s point guard Chris Paul, and an active member of the NBWA, attended the CAST’s 19th Annual Slavery to Freedom Gala in May, which honors change agents who have committed themselves to putting an end to modern slavery.
“It’s a dark epidemic in the states that isn’t really advocated for,” said Wright, who grew up in Inglewood, CA. “I have childhood friends [who’ve] walked into prostitution.”
As the president of the NBWA, she said it is important for her to convey a message to young women, “you are important just as you are and your uniqueness to this world matters.”
In a time when athletes are utilizing their platforms to bring awareness to issues they deem important, Buck shared how meaningful it has been for the wives and girlfriends of professional athletes to also use their social media networks and resources to take a stand against human trafficking.