NEW YORK – The NBA today announced that Dallas Mavericks guard-forward Reggie Bullock, Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday, Memphis Grizzlies forward-center Jaren Jackson Jr., Minnesota Timberwolves center-forward Karl-Anthony Towns and Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet have been selected as the five finalists for the 2022 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award. The five finalists represent the year’s most impactful social justice advocates who are continuing NBA players’ decades-long tradition of activism. The annual award recognizes a current NBA player for pursuing social justice and advancing Abdul-Jabbar’s life mission to engage, empower and drive equality for individuals and groups who have been historically marginalized or systemically disadvantaged.
The finalists were determined from the pool of team nominees by the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion selection committee, comprised of social justice leaders and members of the NBA family. The committee includes inaugural voters Abdul-Jabbar, Director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport Dr. Richard Lapchick, National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial, UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía, Rise Founder and CEO Amanda Nguyen, and NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum, as well as Kendall Dudley, the 2021-22 youth representative who is a member of the Jr. NBA Court of Leaders.
The winner will be announced during the Western Conference Finals on TNT and will receive a $100,000 donation from the NBA for a social justice organization of his choosing. The other four finalists will each select a social justice organization to receive a $25,000 contribution on their behalf. Los Angeles Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony was named as the inaugural Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion at the end of the 2020-21 season.
Below is more information about the finalists, including their respective efforts and selected beneficiaries.
About the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Finalists:
Reggie Bullock, Dallas Mavericks
Reggie Bullock has been an avid advocate for LGBTQ equity throughout his NBA career, continuing his efforts with the Dallas Mavericks during the 2021-22 season. Following the 2014 murder of his sister Mia Henderson, who was transgender, Bullock has focused on acceptance of all people by working to create truly inclusive communities through neighborhood engagement and national efforts around the LGBTQ movement, including participating in the NYC Pride March, the GLAAD Media Awards and NBA events for LGBTQ youth and allies. Upon joining the Mavericks in August of 2021, he forged new relationships with organizations that work in the LGBTQ space in the greater Dallas area, including Abounding Prosperity, Dallas Southern Pride, House of Rebirth, The Black-Tie Dinner, the Resource Center and the Muhlashia Booker Foundation.
Most recently, as part of the Mavs Take ACTION! initiative, Bullock participated in a courageous conversation as part of the HUDDLE series to uplift the Trans community, amplify community organizations who are working to support and protect LGBTQ individuals and create opportunities for allyship. Joined by Stephanie Houston, Founder of the Muhlashia Booker Foundation and Leslie McMurray, Transgender Education & Advocacy Associate, he fondly remembers his sister Mia and how the personal tragedy motivated him to use his platform as a professional athlete to advocate equal rights and visibility for the LGBTQ community. The session, titled Voices Unheard, Uplifting Trans Perspectives, was released on National Day of Trans Visibility on March 31, 2022. Additionally, Bullock created RemarkaBULL, an organization focused on developing revitalized spaces for a stable life in the LGBTQ community and continues to advocate for equal rights and protections for the individuals, including writing an open letter to the NCAA protesting Idaho’s House Bill 500. Bullock has selected Kinston Teens as the recipient of his donation.
Jrue Holiday, Milwaukee Bucks
During the 2021-22 season, Jrue Holiday continued to support Black-led organizations and Black-owned businesses in Milwaukee and beyond. Through the Jrue and Lauren Holiday Social Justice Fund, Holiday has provided funding and support to minority businesses to address social and economic inequality that continues to prevent Black communities from upward mobility. In February 2022, he and his wife launched the third round of grant funding, committing another $1 million dollars to Black-owned business and nonprofits in Milwaukee, New Orleans, Indianapolis and Los Angeles.
Working with Renee King, founder of FundBlackFounders, grantees receive coaching and training to expand their funding opportunities, including the creation of crowdfunding campaigns that increase community engagement. Beyond the funding and mentorship, Holiday intentionally partners with organizations that recognize the 360-degree model of providing funds, programming and services and is viewed as a leader in building stronger communities focused on economic development. In addition to his philanthropy and engagement with minority-owned small businesses in Wisconsin, Holiday has been active champion and advocate for voting right awareness across the state through the Bucks Vote initiative, reaching hundreds of thousands of eligible voters through state-wide public service announcements. Holiday has selected Urban Underground as the recipient of his donation.
Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies
For the past several years, Jaren Jackson Jr. has been focused on advancing health and economic equity in Black and brown communities, creating women empowerment initiatives and increasing voter awareness. Understanding the pandemic’s impact on communities of color, Jackson Jr. has worked to provide custom masks for Black and brown families, supply PPE to communities, provide meals for those working at COVID testing locations and use his voice in the NBA’s COVID-19 PSA to encourage all to get vaccinated. Additionally, Jackson Jr. continues to support women’s empowerment initiatives and recently completed his third year as an ambassador for the Nike Game Growers Program, an exclusive opportunity for 7th and 8th grade girls to share their ideas on how to encourage more girls to play sports. He also sponsored all women-led local organizations for Women’s History Month through the Grizz Ticket Assist Program and covered the cost of the tickets, transportation and snacks for local middle school teams to attend University of Memphis Women’s Basketball games.
Jackson Jr. is also passionate about civic engagement and upon entering the league made it a point to be vocal about being a first-time voter during the 2018 season. Following that, he was incredibly visionary in support of voter campaigns and increasing awareness before the 2020 election, and this past election season, he supported several voting campaigns, including BET’s National Black Voters Day, Tennessee Secretary of State’s, Your Vote Matters Campaign and the Grizzlies’#GrizzVotes Campaign. Additionally, in Nov. 2021 he committed $7,500 to assist 13 families in eliminating their overdue housing and utility bills and launched his first social media fundraising campaign to support young Memphians on the rise on Giving Tuesday. As part of this ‘Much Required’ campaign, he raised nearly $200,000, in one day to add to his personal donation to help support local youth organizations, including Arts Memphis, Girls Inc., Memphis Slim House, Vance Avenue Youth Development Center and Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis. He has selected Rock the Vote as the recipient of his donation.
Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Karl-Anthony Towns has devoted his time, platform and resources to health equity and education since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and specifically this past season to advocate for vaccine education after experiencing personal loss. Towns worked with the NBA on a vaccine PSA released in Feb. 2022, Cue Health to provide 100 COVID-19 testing kits and tests to more than 50 schools in both New Jersey and Minnesota, and Walgreens on their Get a Shot, Give a Shot campaign to promote flu shots and help ensure access for all via a $5,000 donation.
Beyond health equity, Towns donated $20,000 to the George Floyd Foundation in partnership with JD Sports in July 2021 and made a $30,000 donation to the Vera Institute of Justice, which works to end the overcriminalization and mass incarceration of people of color, immigrants, and people experiencing poverty, selecting them as his beneficiary in Celebrity Wheel of Fortune. Additionally, in support of gender equity and access for women in sports, Towns made a donation to Kean University in New Jersey to support programming for their women student athletes highlighting empowerment and internships, naming the series in honor of his late mother, Jacqueline Towns. He continues to serve as a board member of the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition. Towns has selected George Floyd Memorial Foundation as the recipient of his donation.
Fred VanVleet, Toronto Raptors
Fred VanVleet has been a leader and champion around social justice, inspiring teammates to find their own voice in his pursuit. To create equity in education, he created the Fred VanVleet Scholarship in Dec. 2021, a full academic scholarship for a Black or Indigenous student to pursue four years of higher education in Canada and receive mentorship from VanVleet to help shape the reality for the student after their academic career. Additionally, through the Heart of the City initiative, he distributed more than 1,000 backpacks to historically marginalized students throughout the Greater Toronto Area and provided them with the necessary resources to succeed academically. VanVleet also hosted a conversation with Marci Ien, Minister of Women & Gender Equality & Youth, to continue his allyship of women.
VanVleet also co-hosted the Bet on Yourself social justice podcast, dedicated to shining a light on and uplifting struggling or up-and-coming BIPOC entrepreneurs shape their business to impact culture in a positive way. Together with his advisor, Derek Folk, they supported business owners and listeners with insight, motivation and honest conversations around entrepreneurship, branding, finance and e-commerce. Additionally, he serves as the leader of the Raptors’ Social Justice Team Council, which reviews social justice participation and actions, and has inspired his teammates to engage in their own work for marginalized communities, including Scottie Barnes’ scholarship and Pascal Siakam’s “Coding for Champions” program. VanVleet is currently in the process of creating an additional scholarship in his hometown of Rockford, Illinois and planning for the next season of the Bet on Yourself podcast to encourage BIPOC entrepreneurs. He has selected Penny Appeal Canada as the recipient of his donation.