NEW ORLEANS, LA – JANUARY 14: The NBA Launch Event of a 6-week program that brings together 100 youth ages 14-17 each Saturday morning over consecutive weeks to participate in a combination of on court basketball programming and classroom-based learnings on January 14, 2017 at Milne Recreation Center in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

Last month, RISE and Under Armor launched their Building Bridges Through Basketball (BBTB) program in Los Angeles. BBTB is a 10-week program that brings youth together with local police officers to improve the relationship and restore trust among civilians and law enforcement.

“Through those 10 weeks, we touch on different topics: identity, diversity concepts, privilege, bias, community building, leadership,” said RISE senior director of partnerships Jerrell Price.

Each session starts with one hour of RISE programming and 90 minutes of basketball. The youth will not only engage in tough conversations with law enforcement but will get a chance to play basketball alongside them with the guidance of coaches.

In BBTB, students get to have candid conversations and play basketball with law enforcement Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

The amount of youth outnumbers the amount of police officers in the sessions. To promote a safe space during the sessions, law enforcement is asked to not be in uniform.

“It allows them to go out there and have these conversations, allows youth to have these conversations in a room that they feel comfortable in,” Price said. “We do know that some of [the youth] have a different background or experience with law enforcement.”

The earlier sessions touch upon identity with the goal of participants finding commonalities with one another. The last component is community building, which teaches participants how to observe different perspectives.

CHICAGO, IL – NOVEMBER 30: The NBA Building Bridges Through Basketball program at Union League Boys & Girls Clubs on November 30, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)

“We talk about service diversity and deep diversity and how we really want to be known for that deep diversity,” Price said. “Those deep diversity pieces are how we connect with one another and how we build that trust.”

BBTB started in June with Project Blue, an after-school program that helps youth from six to 18 build trust with law enforcement. To help further the conversation after the sessions are complete, RISE teaches coaches their curriculum.

BBTB started at the 2017 All Star Game (Courtesy of RISE)

“The great thing with these organizations, they feel empowered to help lead some of these conversations,” Price said. “That’s how we make an impact, how do we continue to educate folks to then want to continue this conversation so they can educate others.”

The youth of Project Blue will engage in two 10-week sessions each year. BBTB will partner with Project Blue for the next three years. RISE started BBTB in 2017 during the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans and continued the program in Charlotte, NC, Chicago, and the Bay Area. After Under Armor partnered with the program, BBTB was able to expand.

“We’ve really grown from those three to now going into 10 additional markets,” Price said. “We’re hitting 13 different cities across the country from the west coast all the way to the east coast.”