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CSA continues quest to decrease city's violence

CHICAGO -- White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf doesn't remember exactly what prompted his original idea eventually turning into the Chicago Sports Alliance, bringing together five Chicago professional sports teams in support of solutions to decrease violence in the city.

"It just popped into my mind one day," said Reinsdorf following Friday's luncheon and panel discussion concerning issues related to this organization at the MB Ice Arena. "I must have been reading about gun violence, or I saw something on TV. Just an idea. But it wouldn't go any place without the other four guys. So, I had the idea, but they made it work."

CHICAGO -- White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf doesn't remember exactly what prompted his original idea eventually turning into the Chicago Sports Alliance, bringing together five Chicago professional sports teams in support of solutions to decrease violence in the city.

"It just popped into my mind one day," said Reinsdorf following Friday's luncheon and panel discussion concerning issues related to this organization at the MB Ice Arena. "I must have been reading about gun violence, or I saw something on TV. Just an idea. But it wouldn't go any place without the other four guys. So, I had the idea, but they made it work."

"Jerry approached me at one of the owners' meetings and said we should all get together and combine our efforts," Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said. "It made a lot of sense. It was about the same time violence was really spiking in Chicago, and like we said during the program, if we all work together, we can raise more awareness for the programs we support."

Friday's program featured a special presentation by Jens Ludwig, the University of Chicago Crime Lab director, one of the programs backed by the Alliance. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie T. Johnson, Chris Sutton, the Choose to Change program director, and Eddie Bocanegra, the READI Chicago senior director, made up the second panel and the question-and-answer portion.

Ricketts, Reinsdorf, Blackhawks chairman Rocky Wirtz, Bears chairman George H. McCaskey and Bulls president and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf, the men at the forefront of the Alliance, spoke eloquently during their 20-minute-session.

"I don't think the sports teams have ever come together like this here or anywhere else," Ricketts said. "Obviously we want to look for solutions. There's no one solution. You have to find the ones that you think are effective and give them support."

"Well, it's a significant opponent," said McCaskey, of the sports teams doing what they can together to fight against violence in Chicago. "But there's upsets all the time."

In a press release issued prior to the luncheon, the Chicago Sports Alliance announced it will "move forward in 2019 to lend the teams' collective reach and resources in support of finding innovative solutions to decrease violence in the city." This movements marks the second consecutive year of the Alliance and its contributions, following Reinsdorf's call to action early on in 2017.

The group is donating $1 million in grants to continue supporting a partnership with the University of Chicago Crime Lab and Choose to Change (C2C), which combines Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc's high-intensity mentoring and advocacy with trauma-informed therapy provided by Children's Home & Aid. The Alliance will fund the targeted transitional job training program, READI Chicago (Rapid Employment and Development Initiative), a new addition this year.

Last year, the Alliance provided a grant earmarked for analyst training at the Chicago Police Department's Strategic Decisions Support Centers (SDSCs). In 2018, additional support fully funded the training program and SDSCs. The support created the opportunity for the Alliance to direct investments toward the new program, READI Chicago.

The Alliance maintained the approach established in Year 1 by relying on data and expertise from the Crime Lab to direct the group's investments toward "programs and efforts structured to produce more actionable insights."

All these men in charge spoke about involvement from their specific players, past and present, ranging from the Bears' Matt Forte to Jimmy Butler and Michael Jordan with the Bulls to the Cubs' Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward, and Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu with the White Sox. They also addressed how the average fan could make a difference, with the bar being set by the Chicago sports teams they follow.

"These teams take so much out of their community. There's an inherent obligation to give back," Reinsdorf said. "Why do people go to Soldier Field when it's 10 degrees below zero, and 65,000 people are out here cheering for a team? None of the players on the team even know who is out there. Guaranteed Rate Field was paid for by the taxpayers. There's a tremendous obligation to give back. If we didn't do it, it would be a very bad thing. We would deserve more blame if we didn't do it than credit for doing it."

"It's an honor to be working with the other teams," Ricketts said. "Those are guys whom I've looked up to and respected for a long time. It's just the ability to get more attention to what is probably the biggest problem our city is facing."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.




Source: https://www.mlb.com/news/chicago-sports-alliance-aims-to-improve-city/c-300842720

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