RICHMOND, Va. -- On Richmond’s south side, you’ll find strangers coming together for one common love, basketball.
“Well, we're trying to get a win. Trying to get a championship," Ed Green said.
Green has been coming out to compete in the RVA League for Safer Streets for the last four years.
“Every year man, every year and I love it, man," Green said.
He’s one of the dozens of players who are part of the community-based program, created in 2017 by two former inmates, Paul Taylor and the late Jawad Abdu.
Both men wanted to find a way to keep other young men out of prison.
“We wanted to reach a population that some would say is not reachable," league commissioner Robert Morris said.
Morris said all players are over 17-years old and most come from low-income neighborhoods.
"If we could run it all year round, we would," Morris said.
Both Taylor and Abdu approached the Richmond Police Department in 2017 for their support, which helped launch the league. Since then, RPD has been one of the sponsors of the league and the games also offer players the chance to engage with police officers.
Before each game, players must go through a workshop on building character.
“Start thinking about positive outlets for whatever types of stress you’re dealing with," a mentor said to them. “One of the most important things that makes it work is the relationships y’all are building with each other.”
The league is also following CDC guidelines and requires every player, staff member, and visitor to get rapid COVID-19 testing before playing.
"None of us want to get sick so we follow our guidelines," Morris said. “Most of our guys wouldn’t have been tested if it wasn’t for this. They don’t go where the tested is done.”
It’s something Green hopes continues for years down the road.
“They help you get jobs and it’s the only free league around in the city so it was like why not be a part of it and if I can help somebody in the midst of doing it, that’s great," Green said.