NBA mobilizes during coronavirus outbreak to get the message out and provide funding, relief assistance

SportsPulse: Chris Paul and Al Horford took to social media to speak to NBA fans about dealing with coronavirus, making them the latest athletes to use their platforms to inform those across the country. USA TODAY

The NBA knows how to mobilize, especially in difficult times.

In the days since coronavirus (COVID-19) not only suspended the NBA season but brought everyday life to a near standstill, the league has found ways to help through its NBA Cares program — from NBA and WNBA players and teams donating money to assist out-of-work arena workers, public-service announcements from players to mental health assistance to helping kids stay active and healthy during this time.

“There’s no group of people who can contribute as much as our players can in terms of getting the message out,” NBA president of social responsibility and player programs Kathy Behrens told USA TODAY Sports. “Obviously, the people on the front lines, the health-care workers, the people who are essential employees who are going in every day, that’s a whole other level of sacrifice.

“But everybody in the world right now has to do something, has to sacrifice something. We know that our players have a reach and have a platform and people are listening to them.”

The NBA and WNBA, along with players and teams, have pledged $50 million to COVID-19 related efforts, and the NBA and National Basketball Players Associated each donated $1 million to benefit Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization, Crisis Text Line, Direct Relief and Share Our Strength, among others.

The total right now is around $35 million.

“Philanthropy is going to be incredibly important especially given the economic challenges,” Behrens said.

The NBPA Foundation, which helps players with their philanthropic work to maximize impact, is in the process streamlining donation process to that organizations receive money faster, especially now when getting money and goods to those in need is a necessity.

“We’re seeing an influx of players calling in trying to figure out what is the right them for them to do in light of how widespread the impact of COVID-19 is going to be,” NBPA Foundation executive director Sherrie Deans said.

The foundation is thinking big picture, too. It created an online resource for players called Big Hearts, Big Impact that allows to explore “areas that aren’t the first things you think about around the social safety net and around thinking about long-term policies to make some of things more secure for vulnerable people,” Deans said. “We’re trying to find them links to those organizations that are doing that kind of work so as they think not just about the immediate response but the long-term response, they have options.”

Brooklyn's Kyrie Irving on Monday donated $323,000 plus a $200,000 match from Lineage Logistics to deliver meals to families, and Philadelphia's Joel Embiid said he will donate $500,000 to COVID-19 relief.

The NBA moved quickly with its NBA Together campaign, designed for global outreach, social engagement, education and inspiration.

It started with PSAs on health and social distancing from several players, including Steph Curry, Kevin Love, Trae Young, Jayson Tatum, Damian Lillard, Victor Oladipo, Pau Gasol, Layshia Clarendon and Courtney Williams.

Those messages have been watched more than 45 million times on various platforms. And keep in mind, these aren’t polished production pieces. They are players recording videos on their phones and sending them in.

It continued with a Know the Facts web page and Acts of Caring initiative aimed to inspire one million acts of kindness big and small and to share those acts on social media with the hashtag #nbatogether.

“One of the great things about the Kevin Love message was yes, we have to be socially distant but it doesn’t mean we have to isolate ourselves so that’s why we talked about building your community,” Behrens said. “How do you connect people? How do you reach people?”

The Jr. NBA at Home program has also unveiled workout programs, exercises and basketball drills for kids to do solo in a limited space. The Jr. NBA’s partners are also helping with education tools including virtual lessons for at-home learning.

The NBA also relies on Headspace, a mental health and wellness app that promotes meditation and mindfulness. It’s a way that “that the stress and anxiety can be lessened because this is a stressful and anxiety-producing time as any of us have probably seen in a generation,” Behrens said.

Each day the NBA is hosting NBA Together Live events on Instagram (3 p.m. ET) and Twitter (4 p.m. ET), featuring players. Kevin Love, Dennis Scott, Miles Bridges, Bruce Bowen and Lillard have participated.

The NBA also is streaming classic games on NBA social platforms, including Facebook and YouTube.

"This is a time of great sacrifice and everybody can do something," Behrens said. "We’re no different in trying to figure out how we use our platform and reach and how can we be helpful in a world that needs a lot of help."

Follow USA TODAY Sports' Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.


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