By Natasha Brown


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Hoping to tackle the violence in Philadelphia, community advocates are using basketball as a tactic to curb gun violence. Children often emulate what they see and on Monday, an NFL player and a member of the Harlem Globetrotters hoped their presence and sports initiatives give kids hope and a way out of the violence.

Will Parks may play for the Denver Broncos, but the North Philadelphia native’s heart will always be in the city where he grew up.

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He surprised anti-violence organizers from Philadelphia Ceasefire, by showing up at the kickoff of an initiative called “Get Ahead of the Game” at Temple University. The initiative is aimed at stopping the violence plaguing the streets of Philadelphia.

“Change the one thing that we know is going on around here and that’s these kids that’s killing each other,” Parks said.

He also shared a very personal story about losing his own uncle to gun violence during a 2018 robbery, and how he is still impacted by violence today.

“I actually know two people today that are at funerals for the murders that happened on 16th Street and the woman who was killed on 30th Street,” he said.

The NFL safety’s message resonates loudly both in his words and actions.

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He’s partnered with Philadelphia Ceasefire to launch his own campaign, called “My Cause My Cleats,” with shoes that reflect the Philadelphia skyline and a message to stop the violence.

“I’ve been dealing with gun violence since about 5 years old so I told myself that if I had the opportunity to help out the city that I grew up in, that I would do it,” Parks said.

He was joined by Darnell Artis, another Philadelphia native who now plays for the Harlem Globetrotters, to promote a summer basketball tournament and summer league that will provide an outlet for young adults in the city.

“It’s about more than just the young men in our neighborhoods, so this year we have dance team coming, along with three cheer teams coming, so that we can get the young ladies involved,” Artis said. “We’ll have be giving free haircuts and and free game trucks.”

“This basketball league is another example of, there’s another way, the life skills coaching. There’s another way, matching people up with employment opportunities. There’s another way,” state Sen. Art Haywood said.

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These two Philadelphia natives are living the example of finding another way.

“All they need is one light bulb. Some kids have darkness in their heads, they just see dark when it’s a blue sky,” Parks said.

Parks and the Broncos donated $15,000 to Philadelphia Ceasefire this past December.

The basketball tournament and summer league will be held later in July. It will also include life skills workshops as well as address violence in Philadelphia.