After announcing in the Richmond Standard the launch of an all-Hispanic basketball league that holds games at the Hilltop YMCA, San Pablo resident Jorge Cervantes received both praise and scorn from the community.
Cervantes said he was called a racist by some, with one harsh email accusing him of building an invisible wall around his league, an apparent reference to Donald Trump’s controversial proposal to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border.
But along with the negative reactions came an influx of positive comments saying the league, called Nuestra Liga Hispana, is good for the community, partly in that it provides an affordable venue for residents to participate in a healthy and positive activity.
While some may disagree with the league, Nuestra Liga Hispana has seen its number of participants double since Cervantes publicly introduced it.
The league began its summer season with 60 participants. The fall season is expectied to attract 12 teams with 120 participants.
“We will have a team from San Rafael, one from San Francisco, one from Martinez and a Stockton team,” Cervantes said.
The number of bodies has become too great for Cervantes to manage on his own, so he brought in a team of people to help run the league. They include Luis Escamilla (advisor/promoter), Carlos Berviz (business/recruiter), and Fernando Ramos (treasurer/promoter).
Cervantes (pictured below on left) says he started the league to offer Hispanics, who he says are often intimidated away from playing pick-up games locally, a safe and guaranteed place to play. The league has inspired community members who once played for fun to join the gym, practice for Sunday games, and make physical activity more of a focus in their everyday lives, Cervantes said.
“We promote healthy lifestyles, good sportsmanship and on top of all self confidence,” he added.
The league has also become a social place where families can cheer on their loved ones and get to know other community members, Cervantes said.
Last Sunday, the league held its championship game and third-place game from the summer season and named MVPs. After the third-place game, surprise guest San Pablo Mayor Rich Kinney presented Cervantes with an award for Positive Influence in the Hispanic Community. The award was set up as a surprise by the league’s appreciative committee.
The mayor also pushed to set up a meeting with Cervantes to discuss the league’s expansion, including the possibility of starting an Open league in addition to the Hispanic league. Cervantes says he wants to work toward that.
“I want everybody to be happy…I am not that person people emailed about,” he said.
As for this past season’s victors, the Bad Boys defeated The Dream by two points in a nail-biting game, while the Cofras defeated the Latino Omegas by three points for third place.
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