05-19-2008, 12:21 PM
NBA Legend and Hall of Famer
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Land of 16 NBA Championships
Article: Los Angeles Times - Lakers' Newble opens NBA eyes to Darfur
Source: Lakers' Newble opens NBA eyes to Darfur
The faces haunt Ira Newble, their silent anguish sometimes drowning out the joyous noise of a Staples Center crowd, their looming presence a jarring reminder that genuine do-or-die struggles in life don't occur on a basketball court.
Newble, 33, is usually stuck on the Lakers' bench, but he has plenty of positives to focus on. The 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward, with eight years in the league, went from being a free agent two months ago to a roster spot on one of the teams favored to win the NBA title.
But even such good fortune can't dull the pain of having seen young children draw pictures of their parents being murdered, or erase the horror of hearing a young woman talk about being raped night after night. And it doesn't dim the image of a young man whose eyes were gouged out.
Newble saw all that and more last summer when he made a trip to a refugee camp in Chad to see victims of the conflict in neighboring Darfur.
"The stories are so saddening," Newble said. "I'm from Detroit and I've seen some of the worst things there and in other parts of this country, but it doesn't begin to compare to the living conditions of the people from Darfur."
The Darfur region, located in western Sudan, has been engulfed in a devastating conflict for the last five years. Government troops and militia units have been battling rebels opposed to a government they say persecutes the non-Arab population. The government-backed militia units have targeted civilians, and an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 have been killed, with some 2.5 million people displaced.
Darfur wasn't even a blip on Newble's radar screen until January 2007. He was on the way to a morning shoot-around as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers when he picked up a newspaper with a story about an English professor, Eric Reeves, who was working for relief for Darfur from his hospital bed despite suffering from leukemia.
"I was wondering how come I didn't know anything about Darfur," said Newble.
He contacted Reeves, who gave Newble a crash course on Sudanese politics. Through his agent, Steve Kauffman, Newble met Hunter Payne, founder of Aids Still Required, a charitable organization devoted to humanitarian relief. Newble learned China is a major trading partner and is a supplier of weapons to the Sudanese government. He wrote a letter of protest to the Chinese government.
"How could they be a legitimate host of the Olympics," said Newble, "while underwriting genocide and war?"
Even as the Cavaliers were about to begin the playoffs last year, Newble felt Darfur couldn't wait.
"I realized a lot of my teammates were like I had been," said Newble. "They had no clue what was going on in Darfur. So I compiled a packet of information for each of them and, with Coach Mike Brown's permission, I addressed my teammates in the locker room one day after practice. I asked them to read the information and to then come back and discuss it with me if they had any questions."