#HoopsNotCrime

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.

6 comments

  1. I remember hearing about #HoopsNotCrime, but didn’t know how much this campaign snowballed. It’s fascinating how social media can affect an organization like a police department so much – something you don’t typically associate with an online presence. It seems that their efforts were twofold: help their reputation and help the kids in the neighborhood. It’s great that they saw results. This example seems a lot like the ice bucket challenge in the way celebrities got involved and they received donations from the viral videos. Thanks for sharing, I love stories like this!

  2. willybbolton · ·

    I enjoyed this post – I saw that video but was not aware of the after effects. I think that these types of stories are one of the coolest things about social media. There’s so much bad news being thrown in our faces every day, and a positive story with positive results is very refreshing and brings people together! Social media allows for people to be connected and gets people to care about stuff, and it is cool to see people care about something with a good message.

  3. I love this story, and love it even more now that I know more about it. I agree with Andrew in that the social media team was very skilled and savvy to know a great story when they saw it, and used that to leverage even more opportunities and goodwill in the community. I didn’t know that the foundation was helping other police departments, even one in our own state! This is a great learning opportunity for other organizations to make sure that if and when an organic moment like Officer White’s comes along, to not let it pass, and to make sure you have plans in place to move quickly with the communication and promotion.

  4. This was such an awesome story and I’m glad someone posted about it to bring it further attention. I’ll admit, when this video surfaced several months ago with “And you’ll never guess what happened next,” included in the caption, I was pretty scared. However, the responding officer handled the situation perfectly and started the snowball effect that turned this into a national feel-good story. You also made a great point in stating how well the Gainesville Police Department social media team handled this story. The #hoopsnotcrime campaign shows how fast positivity can spread through social media when good people do good things.

  5. Really nice story. It sort of goes back to our discussion on what goes viral. Some story takes off online, then gets attention by news outlets, then celebrities who like the message join in. Keeps feeding off itself.

  6. And this is what is right with the world! I enjoyed this! We don’t hear too many stories like this these days, unless your actively looking for it. Sometimes you forget that positivity can also be contagious on social media. We need to see things like this especially in a time where policy brutality is a major theme in today’s media. The hashtag is awesome and Gainesville Police Department gets kudos from me for this campaign based on what I viewed in this post. Let kids be kids and focus on those who commit actual crimes. Great message and great course of action.

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