The greatest player in the history of the Atlanta Hawks is raising money for a large cause.
On July 30, Dominique Wilkins, Kalin Bennett and KultureCity teamed up to start the Dunk and Donate Challenge. As of Aug. 10, the fundraising goal is $100,000. The money will go to create the Bennett Wilkins Legal Defense Fund, which will represent those with disabilities that have had their rights denied.
“Unfortunately, money, gender, religion, status, race or disability, the rights of individuals are never equal,” Wilkins tweeted on July 30. “Today in America, we are able to see more clearly that the rights of the disabled are being taken advantage of, especially in minority communities.
“Cases like Matthew Rushin and Neli Larson recently come to mind making this issue’s importance ever more pressing.”
Rushin was 19 when he pleaded guilty to malicious wounding and felony hit and run last year. He received a 50-year sentence, and the Judge ordered him to serve 10 of them. Rushin was a student at Old Dominion University and his mother, Lavern Rushin, said he was “railroaded” by Virginia Beach Police and Courts because he is Black and autistic, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
“It’s an injustice to the autism community, to the mental health community,” Lavern said in the article. “Get out and vote and bring my son home.”
The case stems from an accident on Jan. 4, 2019, which put 72-year-old George Cusick in a coma for two months. Cusick is no longer able to talk or feed himself and he doesn’t recognize his family, witnesses said at Rushin’s hearing.
Prosecutors claimed Rushin said he was trying to kill himself at the scene, but his mother said her son saw the severity of the accident and wished he was dead while speaking with the police. His mother claims her son’s words were twisted and manipulated. She also claims he didn’t understand the plea deal he signed as he was diagnosed with ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome and experienced a traumatic brain injury later, according to Salon.
“As a Black, autistic, young man, Matthew’s negative interaction with police comes at a time when marginalized communities must work together against these injustices,” representatives of the Tidewater Autism Society wrote, as cited by The Virginian-Pilot.
Rushin’s case is also one Bennett highlighted at the start of the fundraiser.
Wilkins and Bennett have promoted the fundraiser through social media with the #DunkAndDonate and #DunkOnTheWorld challenge. Users have uploaded videos of them dunking to announce their support of the initiative. Celebrity participants include Bob Rathbun, Andrew Yang, Rich Eisen, Kurt Warner and Matt Cardona.
While Yang, Eisen, Warner and Cardona dunked on basketball goals big and small, Rathbun opted for a more alternative-athletic method.
Of course, Wilkins, 60, set the dunking standard first.
I’m donating $1000 and challenging @KellyAuCoin77 @bjarmstrong @TheTraeYoung @Joeingles7 @Cbrickley603 @CharlesOakley34 @JasonIsbell to #dunkanddonate for creating a disability rights legal fund! Dunk and donate at https://t.co/Rsii3gySlZ pic.twitter.com/qrw1yt5WaR— Dominique Wilkins (@DWilkins21) July 30, 2020
Bennett became the first athlete with autism to score in a Division I game last November. He has often used his platform to speak up on the injustices of those with disabilities. Wilkins’ daughter, JoJo, who suffers from Spina Bifida, according to Stadium, participated in the challenge herself.
Why #dunkanddonate challenge? It’s so individuals like my daughter JoJo can live in a world where their rights are never violated. @marcuslemonis @garyvee have pledged to donate $25k. I challenge @dunkindonuts @Dunkaroos @JoeBiden @BarackObama link https://t.co/Rsii3gQtdx pic.twitter.com/CGF67uxPbC— Dominique Wilkins (@DWilkins21) August 3, 2020
“As a dad of children with disabilities, disability rights are very important to me,” Wilkins tweeted. “The equal rights of all individuals should be the standard in our society and our justice system.”