Thursday, June 13, 2024

Clean Slate Initiative Director Sheena Meade Talks Partnership with NBA Social Justice Coalition | WATCH

Sheena Meade, founder of Clean Slate
Sheena Meade, founder of Clean Slate

*In February the NBA Social Justice Coalition reached into the ether and found Sheena Meade and her Clean Slate Initiative during the 2023 All-Star weekend festivities. The goal is to raise awareness about Americans living with an arrest or conviction, and the barriers they face.

The National Basketball Association’s Social Justice Coalition has been at the precipice of educating folks and influencing legislation around the issues of voting rights, community policing, and criminal justice. Though LeBron James and others have been the contemporary face of athlete activism, NBA players have long been at the forefront of the fight for human rights in America.

Recently, Ricardo A. Hazell spoke with Meade, the Clean State Initiative Executive Director about the importance of the program, how the NBA became involved, and more.

EURweb:  Please tell our audience about your program.

Sheena Meade: The Clean Slate Initiative works to expand and automate the sealing of arrest and conviction records after people have completed their sentence and remained crime-free for a period of time – believing everyone should have a shot at redemption. We are a national, bipartisan non-profit organization that builds advocacy campaigns where local, state, and national partners operate with the shared goal of passing Clean Slate laws in states and in Congress.

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National Basketball Social Justice Coalition
National Basketball Social Justice Coalition How did the NBA grow to become involved in such an endeavor?

Sheena Meade: Yeah, the Clean Slate initiative, we are a national organization that is focusing on essentially giving people a second chance and doing that by removing barriers for people who have arrests or convictions, and we do that by automating the process.

Every state has a mechanism for people who have a record or have been impacted by the legal system, to petition to get the records cleared.   It’s a very bureaucratic, expensive process. And what we do is go into those states and move legislation for folks who are already eligible.

We remove the burden from the person to the government. It’s no longer initiated by the person. So, with that, we’re a national bipartisan organization that is focused on giving people second chances. Why do you believe that the issue of expungement is a bipartisan issue in an age where Americans don’t agree on much of anything?

Sheena Meade: The easiest way that I can explain it to people is to tell them, when you have 70 to 100 million people who have an arrest or conviction, that’s 1 out of 3 Americans who’re impacted by this. I am someone who has been arrested and has a conviction on my record. It hits close to home for me and millions of people in America. Whether they’re millionaires, billionaires, or the lower-income community, it impacts people across political lines and economic lines.

EURweb: What role has the NBA Social Justice Coalition played?

Sheena Meade: Regarding the NBA Social Justice Coalition, there was a big uprising after the death of George Floyd that got the attention of people in the NBA, NFL, and all types of business sectors. As people of color, these have always been issues that we’ve raised in our communities. But, this situation really brought things to the surface regarding voting rights, policing, and criminal justice.

Clean Slate Event for Utah Jazz
Clean Slate Event for Utah Jazz

The NBA Social Justice Initiative has definitely been taking a stance around these issues of criminal justice, and Clean Slate is one of those things that they got behind.

I believe it’s a very commonsense solution to some of these issues surrounding record clearing. To be honest, they reached out to us as well other grassroots and grass top organizations.

Folks who are impacted have barriers to housing, employment, and education. 90 percent of employers, 80 percent of landlords and 60 percent of colleges use a criminal background check as part of the application process.

Those are huge barriers for a lot of people. Who is the NBA Social Justice Initiative comprised of?

Sheena Meade: The NBA Social Justice Initiative is compromised of coaches, players, and folks within the NBA who said, “Look, we want to be part of fighting for social justice.”  I think they’re just trying to figure out a way to engage their players in a community around these issues and to be able to say they’re on the right side of history.

We have a lot of black and brown players who come from communities that see the impact of policing, criminal justice, and voting. I believe they care about these issues. The players have been amplifying these issues, and rightfully so. I was in Utah two months ago where the Utah Jazz held a big expungement clinic to help raise awareness about people getting a second chance to clean their records.

I think it comes down to values, most people believe in redemption and second chances, as well as providing for our families and having a fair chance at opportunities. I also think that people recognize that you shouldn’t be punished for the rest of your life for one moment in it. So, Clean Slate laws were based on those shared values.

The NBA Social Justice Coalition has many prongs that they try to bring to this space, which we have seen as organizations that have worked with them. Being one has been able to work in collaboration. They’re bringing awareness to it, and they have a big audience.

Two things that people come around is sports and music.  No matter what color you are, no matter your political persuasion, people come around sports and music. And so, they have a wide-ranging audience. They’re able to lift this issue up, whether it’s through their players or the different platforms.

So that’s what they bring. A lot of the players really care about these issues, I got to spend some time with a few of the players at the Summer League in Las Vegas last year, and I heard stories that say, “Listen, my brother, my mother, my cousin is impacted by this, and I want to do whatever I can to raise these issues and change the communities I came from.”

Last year, the Clean Slate Initiative was instrumental in helping pass expungement legislation in Colorado, Oklahoma, and California. Progress is also being made on a platform that will help push federal Clean Slate legislation as well. For more information about the Clean Slate Initiative, log onto

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