Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes, Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, Milwaukee Bucks guard George Hill, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul and Dallas Mavericks center Dwight Powell have been named as recipients of the end-of-season NBA Cares Community Assist Award for the 2019-20 season.
All five players were recognized for their work in raising awareness of social justice causes or helping their communities in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Each player will receive an award of $10,000 to be donated to the charity of their choice.
Paul was at the forefront of negotiations with the NBA for its restart, ensuring the league would include social justice messaging amid national protests over police brutality and discrimination against Black people. Paul, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade also launched the Social Change Fund in July, an organization "dedicated to addressing social and economic justice issues facing Black communities and breaking down the discriminatory barriers to success."
"The community assist award is such an honor to me any year, but this year in particular," Paul said. "Given everything 2020 has thrown our way, it's important that we the players continue to use our NBA platform to be the voice of the voiceless. I will continue to amplify and support the front-line organizations fighting for racial and economic justice, as well as the tireless efforts of the health care workers keeping us healthy and safe during the COVID-19 health crisis. I am so thankful for this acknowledgment as it is one of the proudest accolades an NBA player can receive."
Brown has been one of the NBA's most vocal advocates for social justice, traveling to his native Atlanta in May to join protests following George Floyd's death in police custody in Minneapolis and maintaining awareness during the Celtics' playoff run. In addition, he also donated to the Boston Resiliency Fund, a relief effort for those most affected by COVID-19, and worked on the Boston Celtics United for Social Justice campaign.
Hill was one of the voices at the forefront of the Bucks' decision to not play their Aug. 26 playoff game against the Orlando Magic, leading to a brief player strike in the name of social justice after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin. The veteran had been planning to sit out the game solo in protest of ongoing discrimination and violence against Black people, but his Bucks teammates and the remainder of the NBA soon joined in his effort.
The protest led to the NBA making a greater effort to focus on systemic issues in the community, along with opening up their arenas for voting in November's election—a move that will allow more people to vote safely and hopefully help combat voter suppression.
"Every day we have to live our lives with greater respect and purpose. This isn't a one-person battle, it's a battle for the entire world," Hill said. "Now is the time for us to come together as one and embrace each other, love one another and grow together. Humanity is something we're lacking, and I will continue to do my job to bring back those attributes that we lack today in every community."
Barnes donated to the community relief efforts in Sacramento and Dallas for needy families affected by the pandemic. He also dedicated each of the Kings' eight games in the bubble to a Black charity/organization. He has spoken on several occasions about the importance of community work to enrich the Black community, along with the importance of voting in November's election.
Powell, along with Luka Doncic and Mark Cuban, committed $500,000 to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Parkland Hospital to assist in COVID-19 efforts, most notably for childcare and meals for frontline workers. Powell led the Mavericks in their teamwide wearing of "Equality" on the back of their jerseys during the Orlando restart.