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As Native Americans fight virus, basketball takes a timeout

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As Native Americans fight virus, basketball takes a timeout

PHOENIX (AP) — Basketball is woven into the fabric of Native American life.

Kids dribble balls on dirt courts and shoot at makeshift rims on some reservations while tournaments are held in state-of-the art buildings on others. Players and fans may travel hundreds of miles to play and watch games of “Rez ball,” the fast-paced, no-shot-is-a-bad-one version of hoops played by Native Americans. The game also brings already tight communities even closer.

Now, during the pandemic, the balls have all but stopped bouncing.

Already hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, Native Americans are faced with life without basketball — or any other sport — for the foreseeable future.

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“If anyone knows Native Americans, we love our sports and having to pause sports activity now is difficult,” said Indian Country Today executive producer Patty Talahongva, a member of the Hopi nation who moderated a recent Zoom call on COVID-19′s impact on Native American sports. “When we talk about social distancing, it goes against the fabric of our culture.”

The close-knit nature of Native American life has led to some devastating consequences on reservations, particularly in the Southwest.

Native Americans often live in crowded houses with extended families and have higher rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease than the general U.S. population, issues that make the coronavirus even more dangerous.The effects have been pronounced on the Navajo reservation, which sprawls across parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah and is roughly three times the size of Massachusetts. The tribe with 175,000 member has the highest per capita rates of confirmed coronavirus cases at about 18 per 1,000 people. More than 4,400 people have tested positive and […]

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