U.S. Department of State Announces Basketball Envoy Program in Venezuela

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
May 24, 2012

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the National Basketball Association (NBA) announced today that they will send Nykesha Sales, a six-time Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) All-Star, to Venezuela May 28 - June 1. Sales will join Greivis Vasquez, a Venezuelan-born player with NBA’s New Orleans Hornets, to participate in a U.S. government exchange program that brings people together for greater understanding through sports.

Vasquez, who is a native of Caracas, and Sales will conduct basketball clinics with youth from underserved areas, touring to Politdeportivo de Baruta; Vargas, and Aragua States. This will be the second tour to Venezuela with the Department of State for Vasquez, who was part of the first Sports Envoy program to Caracas in June of 2011.

On Tuesday, May 29th at 10 a.m. local time, the pair will participate in a press conference with municipality representatives. Media interested in attending may contact Eric Catalfamo at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas at +58 212 90782078.

Sports diplomacy builds on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vision of “smart power,” embracing the full range of diplomatic tools, including sports, to bring individuals together to foster greater understanding.

Sport Envoys are current and retired professional athletes and coaches from a range of sports that travel overseas to conduct drills, lead teambuilding sessions, and engage youth in a dialogue on the importance of education, health, and respect for diversity. In partnership with SportsUnited, NBA and WNBA players and coaches have visited over 40 countries since 2004. The athletes have offered basketball clinics for thousands of boys, girls, and coaches. Previous Sport Envoy program diplomats include: Miami Heat Head Coach Erik Spoelstra, NBA Hall of Famer George “The Iceman” Gervin, and current WNBA players, Swin Cash and Ashley Robinson.

SportsUnited is the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ premier sports exchange program at the U.S. Department of State. Athletes and coaches from a range of sports are chosen to conduct clinics, visit schools, and engage with youth overseas in a dialogue on the importance of an education, positive health practices, and respect for diversity. Since 2003, SportsUnited has brought nearly 1,000 athletes from over 60 countries to the U.S. to participate in Sport Visitor programs. Since 2005, SportsUnited has sent over 220 U.S. athletes to more than 50 countries to participate in Sport Envoy programs.

For more information, contact Anna Griffin of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State, at GriffinAL@state.gov; Eric Catalfamo at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas at +58 212 9078207; or Sharon DeLima of the National Basketball Association at sdelima@nba.com/(212) 407-8170

PRN: 2012/831