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August 18, 2008

Blagojevich administration celebrates the tip-off of the Safety NETS Basketball League
NBA and NFL legends gather for the opening of a late night sports program and violence prevention initiative

CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich and Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Carol L. Adams. Ph.D. will tonight announce the tip-off of the Safety NETS Basketball League. A late-night sports and job readiness program for young men, the league is aimed at alleviating risk factors that make them vulnerable to gangs and criminal activities.
Opening ceremonies for the league will be held at 7:00 p.m. at the Malcolm X College gymnasium at 1900 West Van Buren.   Dr. Adams and Gil Walker will be joined by Antoine Walker of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and embers of the National Basketball Retired Players Association also known as legends of Basketball, including Anthony Mason, formerly of the New York Knicks, Bob Love, formerly of the Chicago Bulls, Pete Myers, Chicago Bulls Coach, and Otis Wilson, former Chicago Bears player and chairman of the Governor’s Council on Health and Fitness.
“This initiative is a step in the right direction as we address high crime rates in our communities” said Gov. Blagojevich.  “We are committed to making sure that our young people are focused on positive activities so that they can have a chance to better themselves and their neighborhood.”
“In recent months Chicago has witnessed a rash of violence resulting in the senseless loss of life,” said Secretary Adams.  “We cannot continue to let children run our communities, we as adults need to do our part and lead our communities and be examples to the youth.  Late night basketball programs have proven effective in the reduction of crime and criminal activity.  I am proud of the progress we’ve made and today we have hundred of young men involved in something productive rather than sitting idle.”
Studies show that in many neighborhoods, crime and violence occur more frequently between the hours of 10 pm to 2 am.  In response to this crisis situation, the Safety NETS basketball league completed its first phase by launching sites in four high-risk communities.
The Safety NETS Basketball League is comprised of four divisions: Northern Division, Eastern Division, Western Division, and Southern Division.  Each division has eight teams with ten players per team. With 80 participants in each division, there are 320 participants in the program. 
The Safety NETS Basketball League is for young men 18 through 26 years of age.  Most are unemployed, underemployed and/or disenfranchised.  Players will sign a contract to participate in the program and will be required to attend mandatory workshops that will include counseling, referrals, and job readiness instruction.  The league will feature strict rules, regulations and guidelines to ensure safety and sportsmanship among players. 
The Safety NETS late night Basketball League will target Safety Net Works communities from 9 p.m. until midnight.  The league functions similar to the NBA, where there are play-off games, an all-star game, and a league championship game. 
“I applaud Governor Blagojevich and Secretary Adams for their commitment to violence prevention in our communities,” said Gil Walker, commissioner of the Safety NETS Basketball League.  “The Safety NETS program is designed to get young men off the streets and into the gym.  Once we have them into the gym, they have an opportunity to listen to our ministry - and that is to be a good person overall.”
The Blagojevich administration and IDHS continues to invest in communities in other ways.  Recently, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich signed legislation that will increase sentencing options for criminals who use minors to hold, conceal or utilize firearms to commit crimes.  Additionally, almost 10,000 jobs were provided to youth throughout Illinois this summer.  Also, IDHS offers social and recreational activities four young people thorough its various prevention programs.
Safety NETS Basketball League is another way to get young people active.
For more information or if you would like to sponsor a team contact Commissioner Gil Walker at 312-793-1547.
Safety NETS Basketball League sites
Northern Division:  Englewood
Salvation Army Gym, 69th Morgan
Eastern Division: Auburn-Gresham
St. Sabina, 1210 West 78th Place
Western Division: East Garfield
JLM Abundant Life Community Center, 2265 W. Jackson
Southern Division: Chatham
South Central Community Center, 1021 E. 83rd Street


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