As a member of the unofficial wine club that formed in the NBA bubble during the league’s restart in Florida in the summer of 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the country, Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris also made the most of his time and his Platforms in the bubble spotlight are taking a stand against police brutality and systemic racism as the Black Lives Matter movement took to the national stage.
In June 2022, Harris was able to combine those two passions as one of the players teaming up with the Prisoner Wine Company and the National Basketball Players Association for the premiere of game change game at the Tribeca Film Festival. Starring Harris and other players including CJ McCollum, Malcolm Brogdon and Donovan Mitchell, the documentary takes viewers inside the Florida bubble as a social justice reckoning unfolds during the unprecedented 2020 NBA season.
Months after the film’s release, Harris teamed up again with The Prisoner to promote the latest launch from California winery Corrections, a limited edition three-pack of wine with labels drawn by LA-based artist Chris Burnett. Comprised of a 2021 Tempranillo, Malbec, and Viognier, Corrections costs $225, with a portion of the proceeds from the project going to Rubicon Programs, a Bay Area-based nonprofit that provides essential services to impoverished communities who are disproportionately affected by inequality in the US judiciary.
To hear more from Harris about his commitment to the project and his passion for social justice, we caught up with him just before the calendar changed from 2022 to 2023. Here’s what he had to say.
InsideHook: Why is prison reform a cause you’ve joined?
Tobias Harris: So many of us know someone affected by the prison system. In the United States, black men are disproportionately represented in the prison population. We have seen the impact on people’s lives, both during their incarceration and after they return to the world. It’s a cause that’s impossible to ignore.
What do you think is the biggest problem with the US prison system?
Honestly, there’s still a lot of work to be done, but one thing that keeps striking me is the clear imbalance in punishment. The Sentencing Project reported that black Americans are more than five times as likely to be imprisoned as white Americans for comparable crimes. It is staggering to me that our prison system is so clearly biased.
Have you ever discussed this topic with your teammates or 76ers management?
It was definitely an issue. Earlier this year, the Sixers partnered with the REFORM Alliance to support prison reform and probation in Philly. Conversations are important, but it’s really amazing to see that as an organization we’ve also been able to turn conversations into action.
How important is it for people like you who have a platform to use it consciously?
Using my platform has always been important to me. Besides this work, another passion of mine is working to improve education and literacy, whether it be in Philadelphia or around the world. I know I’m lucky to have this platform and it’s important to me that I use it to make a difference.
How does Prisoner play into your efforts and messages?
Prisoner uses their platform to drive change and make real impact, which aligns with everything I believe. They recognize they have a responsibility to raise awareness and advocate for prison reform. The release of Corrections is just part of this larger commitment, and I’m honored to support it. The bottles are wrapped in black tissue paper with statistics on the problems with our prison system and mass incarceration, and the hope is that these might spark a conversation over wine with a friend, which is a step in the right direction. Conversations are an important starting point. Education is key and listening openly. Then act. This action can be a donation or more hands-on.
Is there reason for hope?
TH: Always. The Prisoner team also believes in this and wanted to communicate it through the release of Corrections. Someone may look at the labels and wonder why the art is so colorful, but that was exactly what they and artist Chris Burnett intended. The label art serves as a symbol of hopeful optimism, inspiring viewers to learn more and take action, whatever that may be. The art also encourages people to remember that individuals who are currently incarcerated or have been incarcerated before are people and not the stereotypes we so often use to define them, such as “criminal,” “addict,” or “criminal.” “. It is important that we do not lose sight of this hope.
This article was featured in the InsideHook Newsletter. Join Now.