Wizards players cherish in-person charity event amid pandemic


There was a lot that was different about the 2020-21 NBA season, including the absence of fans at games for much of the year until local jurisdictions around the country began loosening their laws, allowing teams to fill their arenas in most cases at reduced capacity. But it wasn't just games at which fans were missed.

Teams also had to scale back community events and that forced them to get creative in their charitable efforts. Last weekend was the first time several Wizards players were able to greet fans in person at an event, and they did not take the opportunity for granted.

The Wizards held a back-to-school giveaway in Ward 8, just blocks away from their practice facility in Southeast D.C., as hundreds of locals showed up to get school supplies and see Daniel Gafford, Cassius Winston plus recent first round pick Corey Kispert.

"It's a nice change of scenery for me. It's been a minute since I've been in an atmosphere like this," Gafford told NBC Sports Washington. 

"Being able to do this and give back to the community is a big thing for me because I'm a community guy. I love the people. I just love seeing everybody in a setting like this. Even though we've got the masks on, it's been a minute since we've seen everybody in a big group setting like this."

"It's just good to see people," Winston said.

Gafford and Winston each played their first seasons in Washington last year. Winston was a rookie, while Gafford came over in a trade from the Bulls in March.


This was the first time either had represented the Wizards in this fashion. They hope there will be more opportunities in the future.

Gafford has spoken openly in the past about his frustration with pandemic life. He considers himself an introvert and loves playing video games, but staying inside all the time gets old for anyone. He is rooting hard for the United States to continue making progress so society can return to normal.

"I got the vaccine. I don't really force people to get it because you do what you want with your life," he said, adding he chose Pfizer.

Getting out to see fans had Kispert thinking of what charitable causes he wants to focus on during his NBA career. He hasn't settled on them yet, as he is just now realizing the potential of his influence as a professional athlete.

"It's a huge opportunity. It's bigger than any platform I've ever had," he said. 

The Wizards' back-to-school giveaway was the first of its kind they have been able to hold since the pandemic became widespread in March of 2020. Maybe soon they can become a regular occurrence, just like so many other things that have changed due to the coronavirus.