God Bless Ira Newble!
I don’t write about sports figures on this blog. Until today.
To be honest until recently I had never even heard of Ira Newble. I just don’t follow sports. When I do tune in there seems to be stories about a baseball player on steroids, or a football player wanting more cash. Those stories make me ill. So when the wonderful news about Ira Newble started to filter in to me over the past few weeks I paid attention. His determination to effect change in Darfur has struck a chord with me. The Cleveland Cavaliers basketball player is using his professional connections to try and make a real difference in the world. I don’t hear that often from the sports world.
Newble has announced his plan to collect NBA players’ signatures for a petition titled “Bring the Olympic Dream to Darfur.” Ultimately, Newble wants to stop the genocide against tribal populations in the Darfur region of Sudan; the Sudanese government uses Arab militia groups for the killing. So far they have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of African civilians and created 2 million refugees. My readers know I feel the lack of world reaction to the slaughter is a moral failing, and that future generations will ask why we were so timid and heartless in the face of the facts. That feeling is aimed at both political parties, and especially George Bush, and the 2004 candidacy of the inept John Kerry along with those Democrats who excused him for not fighting over this issue.
Newble has a high paying job, and could very well look the other way. But bless him, as his conscience will not allow it. “I get to play basketball for a living, and I love it. That’s my job, but it isn’t all there is to me. Women and children are being raped. Innocent people are being murdered or displaced from their homes. I can’t stand by and do nothing.”
If only the President of the United States had as much inner angst over Darfur as Newble has. Newble’s petition targets China, which is hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics but also buys about two-thirds of Sudan’s oil. The Sudanese government uses most of its oil profits to buy weapons and aircraft, two-thirds of which are made by China. The weapons are often used to slaughter the people of Darfur.
China has blocked U.N. efforts to send a peacekeeping force into Darfur. Newble joins other activists in calling for China to pressure the Sudanese government’s Khartoum regime to allow peacekeepers into the region.
An article about Darfur by scholar Eric Reeves, an English professor at Smith College, ignited Newble’s activism. He talked to Reeves, did more research and then assembled two pages of facts about the genocide and slipped the sheets into his teammates lockers.
“I called them together and said, Guys, I put some information in your lockers. It’s an issue I’m getting involved in. Read it, and we’ll talk about it.”
Newble is casting a wide net, reaching out to the 400-plus NBA players as well as athletes in the NFL and in Major League Baseball. (I bet every penny I have that Brett Favre will not sign it!) He’s also hoping for the support of his childhood hero, Muhammad Ali. It’s a lot of work, but he’s in for the long haul.
“This is bigger than sports, bigger than basketball,” Newble said. “This is about human beings, and how they are dying at an alarming rate because we are standing by and doing nothing.”
I am glad that my first post about a sports figure turned out to be Ira Newble. I suspect it will not be my last about this fine human being.