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Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns named 2023-24 NBA Social Justice Champion

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NEW YORK – The NBA today announced that Minnesota Timberwolves center-forward Karl-Anthony Towns has been named the 2023-24 NBA Social Justice Champion and will receive the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Trophy.  Towns was selected from a group of five finalists for his dedication to pursuing social justice and upholding Abdul-Jabbar and the league’s decades-long values of equality, respect and inclusion.

The NBA today announced that Minnesota Timberwolves center-forward Karl-Anthony Towns has been named the 2023-24 NBA Social Justice Champion and will receive the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Trophy.

More: https://t.co/YWNZSPDzAX pic.twitter.com/cLsDuWUfIO

— NBA Communications (@NBAPR) May 9, 2024

Towns has been a committed advocate for voting rights, playing a pivotal role in the passage of House File 28 (Bill H.F. 28) – Minnesota’s Restore the Vote bill, a bipartisan legislation that restores the right to vote to thousands of formerly incarcerated individuals.  As a leader for the Timberwolves and in the community, Towns used his platform and voice in support of the bill, shining a light on inequities within the criminal justice system.  He participated in meetings with key organizations and a community conversation hosted by All Square – a nonprofit in Minnesota that invests in people impacted by mass incarceration.  Towns expressed the pressing need for all citizens to have a voice within our democracy and encouraged action at the polls.  Towns’ engagement with All Square exemplifies his passion to make an impact on issues that will help create positive change.   H.F. 28 was signed into law in March 2023 and it helped restore the right to vote for more than 55,000 Minnesotans upon its implementation in July 2023 who were previously incarcerated or on parole.  The passage of H.F.28 marked the largest expansion of voting rights since the voting age in Minnesota was lowered to 18 years old.

In addition to his advocacy around Restore the Vote, Towns has also used his platform to raise awareness for other critical issues within the justice and education system.  Towns dedicated his time and financial support to serve as a producer for the documentary “Forgiving Johnny,” a short film that explores how digital transformation enables change within the justice system, following the main character Johnny and his public defender, Noah Cox, as they navigate the complex legal system.  Towns also provided funding to Ava DuVernay’s film “Origin,” and encouraged young people to experience the film and engage with reading banned books.  Towns is also a board member for the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition (NBSJC), an advocacy organization formed jointly by the NBA, National Basketball Players Association and National Basketball Coaches Association in 2020 that leverages the game’s influence to promote policy, build strategic partnerships, and empower action in NBA markets across the nation.

“Karl-Anthony Towns has demonstrated a deep commitment to advancing social justice through his tremendous advocacy work not only this past year, but throughout his whole career,” said Mark Tatum, NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer.  “Whether it was the passage of the Restore the Vote legislation in Minnesota, his ‘Forgiving Johnny’ documentary or continued work with the Coalition, Karl’s efforts have made a true impact on the lives of thousands in Minnesota and beyond.”

Finalists for the award included Miami Heat center-forward Bam Adebayo, New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Lindy Waters III and LA Clippers guard Russell Westbrook.

The winner of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award was determined by a selection committee comprised of NBA Legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and notable social justice leaders.  The selection committee includes: Director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport Dr. Richard Lapchick, National Urban League President and CEO Marc Morial, UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía, Rise Founder and CEO Amanda Nguyen and NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum.  This year’s youth representative from the Jr. NBA Court of Leaders was JJ Mandaquit.

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