— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) September 12, 2015
The Los Angeles Clippers are re-launching the Clippers Foundation, and they made a major first step in being agents of change in the process.
The L.A. Clippers Foundation committed a $3 million donation over the next three years to City Year Los Angeles, the single largest cash donation in Clippers franchise history. President of Business Operations Gillian Zucker and President of Basketball Operations Doc Rivers made the announcement Friday as part of City Year Los Angeles’ Opening Day at L.A. Live.
City Year is an education-based, nonprofit organization founded in Boston in 1988 that partners with public schools and teachers to help keep students in school and on track. The Los Angeles site, founded in 2007, is the largest of 25 sites, with 309 AmeriCorps members for the 2015-2016 year.
The commitment from the Clippers Foundation represents the largest donation City Year has received from the private sector, and it is targeting five schools in Watts (93rd Street Elementary School, 99th Street Elementary School, 109th Street Elementary School, 122nd Street Elementary School and Compton Avenue Elementary School) – more than 3,000 students are expected to be impacted by the Clippers Foundation’s support.
While this initiative is in Zucker’s wheelhouse, this was one of Rivers’ best moments as head coach here in Los Angeles. Rivers won the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship award as a player in 1990, and he’s been a champion for service in the community, notably promoting the Special Olympics World Games held in Los Angeles this summer throughout the year.
But despite coaching in Boston for nine years, Friday’s Opening Day was Rivers’ first experience with City Year. He flubbed the name at first (calling it “City Corps”, a common mistake by former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa), but his presence was incredible throughout the morning, both while he was on the mic and after the main ceremony. Rivers even made it a point to call out the Los Angeles Lakers (and all teams in all leagues in general) to challenge them to donate to City Year as well.
“The mayor [Eric Garcetti] was talking earlier about the Laker … Clipper rivalry,” Rivers said, pausing once he got a reaction from the crowd upon mentioning the Lakers. “Come on, they can give $3 (million) too, right? I think so. So I’ll make that call and see if we can get that done.”
The other coincidence between Rivers and City Year is Rivers’ use of “Ubuntu” during the Boston Celtics’ championship run. Ubuntu is a Zulu proverb that means, “I am a person through other people; my humanity is tied to yours.” It happens to be one of City Year’s Founding Stories.
Personally, this was a really cool day for me. I’m a City Year alum, first serving in my hometown Philadelphia in 2009-2010 before coming to Los Angeles and serving another year as a team leader in 2010-2011.
The corps in Los Angeles was much smaller five years ago (just under 200), and Opening Day was at City Hall. Now, the City Year corps in Los Angeles is so large that this was the first year Opening Day took place at L.A. Live, near Staples Center. And now the corps serves in 26 schools across Los Angeles. The 2009-2010 City Year Greater Philadelphia corps served in 22 schools, while the 2010-2011 City Year Los Angeles corps served in 14 schools.
The organization has changed a lot, and it has come a long way. Amid rumors of dysfunction this summer, the Clippers Foundation’s commitment to activity is a step in the right direction for that organization too.