Sunday, Los Angeles Clippers small forward and 10-year veteran Matt Barnes teamed up with West Coast rapper Snoop Dogg—or recently reincarnated Snoop Lion—to host the inaugural Athletes vs. Cancer Celebrity Flag Football Game at the Pacific Palisades Charter School.
The event highlighted a beautiful example of the powerful intersection between sports and hip-hop in the inner city.
Though we have seen too many NBA players—like the Artest formerly known as Ron and, more recently, Iman Shumpert—impetuously attempt to crossover into rapping, Sunday proved that the two spheres of influence might be better off working in unison but sticking to their respective talents.
In stunning fashion—only kidding—Team Snoop was victorious over Team Barnes 63-56.
But as with most charity events, this game's significance went well beyond the game, and its message superseded the shine of even some big-name celebrities and NBA stars.
In attendance among other high-profile names, according to Ramin Rezvani of thenosebleeds.com, were Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Ryan Hollins, Metta World Peace, Nick Young, DeMar Derozan, Gilbert Arenas and singer Ray J.
Despite the overwhelming total volume of controversy surrounding—at one time or another—some of the above-mentioned names, this day was about Barnes and his wife's charity.
Following the death of his mother due to lung cancer in 2007, Barnes and his wife created Athletes vs. Cancer in 2008 to bring more assistance to inner cities. From the charity's website:
Athletes vs. Cancer (AVC) is an industry-wide fundraising program that unites sports entertainment, athletes, sports fans and the community in the fight against cancer. AVC wants to save lives and assist in ending cancer forever. Through our annual charity sporting events (e.g., golf tournaments, celebrity basketball games) and many other fundraisers throughout the year, Athletes vs. Cancer puts efforts into raising money to help secure mobile cancer screening vans that will visit low-income neighborhoods and give free resource support and education, create awareness of the disease, provide screening opportunities and deliver subsequent support to cancer patients and their families.
NBA Athlete, Matt Barnes of the Los Angeles Clippers, started Athletes vs. Cancer in memory of his mother, Ann Barnes, who passed away twenty-six days after being diagnosed with several types of cancer in November of 2007. Ann's passing was abrupt and devastating to her friends and family, which led Matt to wanting to prevent others from losing a loved one without the opportunity of having the knowledge and proper resources that can assist in early detection and treatment. In 2008, Matt launched Athletes vs. Cancer worldwide to get athletes more involved by joining together to educate, bring awareness and motivate people to get regular cancer screenings. A voice and outreach ability are the most powerful tools we have; Matt and Athletes vs. Cancer want to use theirs to save lives. Fighting Cancer Forever!
At the event Sunday, Barnes told Rezvani:
We are working with children and teenagers that have been struck by cancer, just to bring smiles to their faces...Cancer doesn’t discriminate, it affects everybody. Everybody knows someone that’s been affected by cancer, so we do what we can to give back.
Additionally, Snoop is no rookie when it comes to charity through football.
Although the rapper was just recently reborn as Rastafarian reggae singer Snoop Lion, he is not a newcomer to influencing low-income communities through sports.
The Snoop Youth Football League, founded in 2005, provides a tremendous opportunity for youth in Southern California's low-income communities to engage in youth football.
The non-profit SYFL website states that in the inaugural season:
[T]here were over 1,300 kids in the Los Angeles area that participated. The season began in September and included seven regular season games and a three week playoff, concluding with the “Super Bowl,” at the end of November. SYFL all-star teams were chosen and participants traveled to Houston, TX. In fact, each year an all-star team is selected to travel to another city to compete with children in other football leagues. In addition, this provided opportunities for many children to ride on an airplane, travel to states that they never dreamed of going, and play in the most prestigious stadiums in the United States.
The mission of Snoop's youth league, moreover, is to
[P]rovide youth, regardless of race, color, creed, or economic background the chance to learn the values of character, integrity, discipline, and team work through football and cheer; to bring all other communities together through a common interest in sports; to promote fair play and fellowship; to teach the game elements promoting safety, enjoyment, and healthy competition.
If you needed any more proof of the profound impact of Snoop's ventures into the sports world, you may recall the name of a former SYFL standout who was given an opportunity by Snoop a few years ago:
The lightning-quick special teams playmaker, "Black Mamba"—a nickname which, who else, Snoop gave to Thomas—is going into his junior year at the University of Oregon, and, as Michael Felder of Bleacher Report noted, was not only a Heisman hopeful heading into last season, but also could be a key component of the passing game this season for the Ducks.
Snoop originally made his West Coast G-Funk hip-hop name in records like "Gin and Juice" and through his 1993 solo debut album Doggystyle.
Perhaps his most recognizable line is from the above song: "with my mind on my money and my money on my mind."
Now, however, Snoop is being recognized for his non-profit organization.
Sunday, he and Barnes weren't making money—they were raising it in their continued support of cancer treatment funding and low-income youth athletic participation.
Hopefully we see this benevolent intersection of sports and hip-hop progress and continue to grow.
Snoop Dogg—maybe not Snoop Lion—would probably agree, "Fo' shizzle."