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Jabari Parker Works To Elevate And Inspire Off The Court As Well

Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker has two rehabs on his plate these days. 

Not only is he repairing an ACL tear that caused him to miss the entire 2016-17 season, hes trying to mend fences in Chicago, the city that he hails from, and in his adopted hometown of Milwaukee.

On Wednesday in Chicago, Parker was honored by the Jordan Brands Re2pect Above All campaign, which exemplifies how the game should be played and set the blueprint for how to give and earn RE2PECT on and off the the playing field. 

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(Photo Credit: Jordan Brand)

I cant speak on specifics, but I know what works when keeping kids off of the streets. A lot of guys live in bad areas but youve got to put yourself in a safe environment, Parker said. As for myself, I came from 79th [street]. I was either at Simeon [Career Academy] or on the North Shore with my godparents. Its sad to see our environment go down like this.

Parker is one of Chicagos most decorated high school hoops legends. He won the state title in every year of his prep career. He was also the first non-senior to win Mr. Basketball in Illinois, along with claiming the distinction of being the first repeat winner in state history. 

Parker grew up on the South Side of Chicago in a neighborhood called South Shore, which is becoming rapidly violent. Some recent incidents in the area include a quadruple homicide, a Chicago Police officer killing a man in a residential block after a high speed chase along with Chicago firefighters being shot at while rescuing someone from a car crash. 

I hear a lot of things about Chicago, said Parker. It shows too much of the negative side and not enough of what shows on the positive end. What can come out of it is bringing awareness, positivity to show people that we can do a better job out there,… its not all that bad. 

Parker is the best spokesman the Jordan Brand couldve used for the Re2pect campaign. After all, Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter rarely, if at all, spoke out on polarizing issues. Seeing him be a critical thinker and a bit of a risk taker when it comes to things going on his hometown and his adopted city shows that he plans to be a force off the court as well. 

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Milwaukee, man its home. You know Im a Chicago kid, and Chicago will always have a big piece of my heart. But with Milwaukee for me it was just love at first sight, he wrote in the earlier this year in the Player’s Tribune.  As soon as I got here, I was like, Wow, this is the place for me. I love this city.

Also, he wants to take the path his father Sonny, who played six seasons in the NBA, took in terms of coming back to the city to lend a helping hand. 

He never really sat me down and told me why it had been important for him to come back to his hometown. But every day, I saw it, Parker said in a 2016 article in the Players Tribune.I saw the kids and the families that he helped, just by being there and pushing them in the right direction.

The current political climate shames professional athletes from speaking out on matters outside of sports. And in our communities, the prevailing thought is that if youre rich and famous you are obligated to participate in the uplift. 

And Parker has noticed some similarities in Chicago and Milwaukee. While Chicago is often dubbed as the most segregated city in America, Parker believes that Milwaukee ought to hold that distinction. 

Its similar. The thing about Milwaukee is that housing and job opportunities for Black people are moved 20 miles out of the city. Its the worst segregation a city could have, Parker said. Even though Milwaukee is worse than Chicago, I try to help kids stay in school.

And theres evidence to back up his claims. 

In 2015, NPR cited a UCLA study that states that K-12 schools in Wisconsin suspend Black high school students at a higher rate than anywhere else in America, along with having the second-highest disparity in suspension rates between white and black students. 

The study went on to say that Milwaukees Black population, which hovers around 40 percent, suspends Black high school students at a rate nearly double the national average.

A University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee study stated that of the 18 Milwaukee suburbs, 16 of them had racial restrictive covenants going back to the 1920s.

While Parker is trying change two communities, he is focused on helping the Bucks get back to the playoffs. He is also keeping the status of his ACL tear close to the vest.

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Things are going good but Im like Batman, where I dont want to tell too much. I dont want to tell people what Im doing because the enemy is the person who knows the most about you, so I try to keep that on the down low, Parker said.

He appears to attack the things that have gone wrong in our country with the same tenacity and passion he plays with. And hes going to get America to put some Re2pect on his name, whether anyone likes it or not. 

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