The Peace League is an annual community basketball league that brings together young men from different communities in Chicago and provides them a safe space to meet each other, learn leadership values through teamwork and work through their differences through sport. Established in 2011 by Isiah Thomas and Father Michael Pfleger of The Faith Community of Saint Sabina, the tournament represents more than a game—it is an opportunity to break down barriers and help young men make positive changes in their lives and communities. Furthermore, the basketball tournament has grown into a program which now offers GED classes, employment training, and internship opportunities.
The Peace League has had a profound impact on the surrounding communities near St. Sabina Church and since it began, there has been a significant drop in violence in the area.
“The NBA players talk about how [the men] can build peace in the community,” Father Pfleger said. “Basketball has tremendous power because it helps build relationships, and the ball became the driving force, not gang divisions.”
“Our goal is to put young people in the right places, put them in the hands of the right people, so they will choose a different path. It’s a lot harder to hurt someone you know once you’ve developed respect for them,” Mary’s Court Founder Isiah Thomas said. “The Peace League affords these young men the opportunity to get to know each other on and off the court, and I am proud to work alongside Father Pfleger to help our young people pursue opportunities in basketball, in academics and in life.”
NBA stars like Chicago Bulls’ Derick Rose, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, Jabari Parker of the Milwaukee Bucks and Will Bynum of the Detroit Pistons joined forces with Mary’s Court Foundation founder and NBA Hall of Famer, Isiah Thomas, to serve as coaches and mentors to these young men and offer insight on how to positively navigate through society.
“Basketball has a way of bringing groups together, bringing people together and breaking down barriers. Just as sport has broken down racial barriers, we think sport has an opportunity to bring down gang barriers.” said Isiah Thomas, founder of Mary’s Court Foundation. “Earning respect, having a positive reputation and being a valued member of a group or a team is partly the reason I’m where I am today; I was taught I could achieve these virtues by playing on a basketball team. Too many of our kids try to achieve them by being in a gang.”
The Peace League is held on Monday nights in The Ark of Saint Sabina, 7800 South Racine. Games begin at 6:15pm, and will continue through February 2015.