On January 15th, a Gainesville, Florida police officer was dispatched for a noise complaint for children playing basketball too loudly in their driveway. Given the seemingly nationwide epidemic of police brutality, many of which have been captured on police videos or phone cameras, not even this dashcam was ready for what happened next. Many of you may have already heard about this story and the national attention it has garnered, but for those of you who have not, you can watch below:
Police officer Bobby White, now nicknamed “Basketball Cop,” has had his police car dashcam video watched more than 17 million times on the Police Department’s Facebook page in the less than 3 months since posting. Not only has this feel good story gone viral, but it sparked nationwide conversation about police, children, crime, and similar topics. The Gainesville Police Department took advantage through their savvy social media team and used the opportunity to spread the good work Office White and the police department have done. Through creating a feel-good message, this situation rose to new heights. Sites like CNN, the major news outlets, talk shows, and sports outlets like ESPN picked up the story. And as you heard at the end of the video, Officer White stated he planned to bring backup for a rematch with the kids. And did he ever:
Through various networks and connections, the Police Department was able to get Shaq to attend the rematch and then give a few words of advice to the kids. His inspiration and motivational story were all caught on film in what became another video gone viral.
Taken one step further, Officer White and the Gainesville Police Department decided to start a foundation to help youth in need, to start locally but with the goal to spread nationwide. The foundation’s purpose is to provide children with an outlet like a basketball court where they can spend their time, and according to the Police Department’s social media manager Ben Tobias, “Let’s have kids do something good, play basketball – hoops – instead of being out there committing crimes.”
The foundation has had hundreds of donations adding up to thousands of dollars in less than a month. And more importantly, others are stepping up and providing equipment and apparel for those in need. These same kids were invited to an Orlando Magic game along with Officer White; the Florida Gators also gave them tickets. The mayor of Gainesville invited them to his house. Various celebrities other than Shaq have chipped in, including the Harlem Globetrotters. And Office White’s goal to take this nationally is happening as donations through #HoopsNotCrime and Basketball Cop Foundation have supplied hoops and basketballs to police departments in Pittsfield, MA, Nampa, ID, and Midland, TX.
First and foremost, if Bobby White doesn’t react how he did, none of this happens, so kudos to him. But had Ben Tobias and the Gainesville Police Department social media team not existed or if they didn’t produce a quality campaign and response in as timely a fashion as they did, perhaps none of this occurs – there is no viral video, there is no Basketball Cop nor #HoopsNotCrime, and the kids play loudly outside as if nothing ever changed. But through the power of social media, viral videos, a few degrees of separation uniting people across the country, and a truly heartfelt and positive message, these kids’ lives have been changed forever along with every beneficiary of the Foundation.