Twenty-five percent of people who end up in jail every year did so without actually committing a crime, according to a stat cited by Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin. Co-chaired by Rubin and rap star Meek Mill, the Reform Alliance is looking to do something about that statistic by changing the probation and petty technical violation laws across the country that send American citizens to prison.
With the holiday season in full-swing, it’s not always a joyous time for those who can’t spend time with loved ones. On Wednesday night (Dec. 15), Meek Mill and Rubin hosted 26 kids who either had a family member currently incarcerated or jailed in the past due to a technical violation as part of the first-ever Reform Night at the Wells Fargo Center.
“I am one of them kids that come from poverty, so to be around some of these kids, I know their family is caught up in the system,” the Philly MC tells Billboard. “I know what it means to be part of this situation — because I was one of those kids, and I never had the chance to brush up on the people I looked up to, or my favorite rappers.”
The VIP experience included a full-court basketball game on the Philadelphia 76ers home court, where the kids were surprised with special guest appearances from teammates Meek Mill, Lil Baby and social media rock star sisters Charli and Dixie D’Amelio.
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The matchup on the floor consisted of a basketball world where traveling violations and double-dribbles didn’t exist. Nine-year-olds draped in Sixers gear were trying to take their favorite rappers one-on-one while Meek nearly snatched Dixie D’Amelio’s ankles with a crossover.
As for Lil Baby, he was out to prove his disastrous performance during the 2021 All-Star Weekend game against Jack Harlow and Quavo was just a fluke. The Atlanta native left the exhibition unscathed, with no hooping clips that will have him going viral for the wrong reason.
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Speaking to Billboard, Lil Baby’s passion for criminal justice reform stems from being arrested what he estimates to be double-digit times before he was famous. And it was actually his NBA superstar friend James Harden who connected the dots and introduced him to Michael Rubin.
“This is something I’ve been facing my whole life,” Baby relays. “I’ve been in jail eight or nine, maybe 10 times. Before the spotlight, I still felt like these rules needed to be changed and this is an injustice — so now I got the chance to be hands-on with something like Reform, and I’m all in it.”
Also on the agenda for the group prior to the Philadelphia 76ers’ Wednesday night matchup with the Miami Heat, then just a couple of hours away, was a mock press conference with Sixers head coach, Doc Rivers.
Rivers told an inspiring story from his childhood growing up in Chicago, where his elementary school teacher sent him home for repeatedly writing that he wanted to be an NBA player when he was older after being told to “be more realistic” time and time again. Doc carved out a 13-year professional career and the 2008 NBA Champion has been a head coach for over two decades.
Of course, Rivers couldn’t get away without one Ben Simmons question when energetic nine-year-old Recco Ford Jr. asked about the Sixers star player’s absence. Coach gave him an official response explaining Simmons is still part of the team and under contract in Philly.
Even after having 13 laws changed through legislation in eight different states and having 500,000 people freed from the probation system, Michael Rubin still wants more.
“I’m really never happy when it comes to progress with anything we do,” he half-jokes. “Someone said our original goal when we started Reform Alliance was to get 10,000 people out of prison. I said, ‘We’re missing a couple zeros.’”
For the red carpet experience’s final act, the kids got to check an item off their bucket list when they sat courtside with Meek Mill and Lil Baby to take in the NBA action from the best seat in the house.
Awesome: 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin and rapper Meek Mill hosted 26 children, adversely affected by the criminal justice system, for a VIP experience at 76ers-Heat game on Wednesday night. pic.twitter.com/OjG2JpS2OE
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“[It’s] definitely amazing, I can’t believe it,” Lil Baby says of his current position in life while taking in his surroundings. “I couldn’t tell you this is where I was gonna be at. I couldn’t script it.”
For more information on the Reform Alliance, visit the initiative’s official website.