Youth basketball has found itself at the center of gun violence in America, and one program in New York City is taking a stand.
The New Renaissance Basketball Association, more commonly known as The Rens, is a youth program involving around 200 boys and girls. It's had four players involved in shootings in the past year alone. Two players were accused of shooting guns, which in one cased killed a girlfriend. Two other players were victims of gun violence.
According to a feature by Jim Dwyer in The New York Times, one of those victims, 16-year-old Tyrek Chambers, has had his basketball career put on hold while he works to heal multiple internal injuries suffered from his gunshot wound, which happened when a car pulled up on Chambers and two of his friends. That bullet is still lodged near his backbone.
The Rens are tired of having such violence disrupt their program, and putting players and friends at risk. This season, the Rens' traveling basketball teams will wear uniforms that feature an orange patch -- a color designated to raise gun awareness. The color orange was first chosen by Chicago teenagers who started a "wear orange" campaign two years ago.
The statement will be the first time any organized basketball team in America has taken a stand against gun violence.
"The orange patch is pretty much the kids taking a stand on their own behalf," says Andy Borman, the Rens' executive director, to the NYT. "The basic message is: If you think guns are cool, then you are a fool."
The patch's symbolism also speaks to the false notion of gun violence as a means of protection. Gangs and gun-carrying friends may offer a sense of security, but it often doesn't play out that way in real life.
Chambers notes to the NYT that when he was shot and hit the ground, he yelled to his friends for help. They all kept running.
Chambers had no idea who shot him or what their motivation was, and he didn't expect to be shot on the day it happened. But he did expect more protection and support from his friends. Now, his opinion has changed.
"They don't watch your back, but that's how people feel," Chambers says. "Until something happens."