Michael Evans

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/18/art.evans2.ypwr.jpg

caption=”Michael Evans, 25, started Full Court Peace in Northern Ireland.”]

I report almost every day on long-standing conflicts around the world. Sometimes the world’s best treaty negotiators or international players can’t rectify these deep-rooted battles. Michael Evans made it clear he held none of those positions when I met him a few weeks ago, but he said he had a similar goal.

Michael started playing professional basketball in Belfast after being a star player in college. “I took the offer without even thinking about the situation there. I assumed everything was over,” the 25-year-old says of his move to Northern Ireland. Of course, the cultural and religious divide between the Protestants and Catholics was far from over. Most sports were highly segregated, but not basketball because it wasn’t as popular.

Michael started Full Court Peace after coaching kids from both sides of the conflict and surreptitiously bringing them together. “I knew basketball was a neutral sport. I knew if I walked in with a cricket bat, or a football my plan wouldn’t work,” Michael says. Indeed it worked, bringing kids together on the court whose families hated each other everywhere else. The group’s mission is now to use team basketball to cultivate and inspire enduring friendships between teenagers from rivaling communities in war-torn regions of the world.

Update: Watch the CNN.com Live interview

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35 Responses to Michael Evans

  1. Alex Lindahl says:

    Nicole,

    Mike is definitely doing some great things with Full Court Peace. Ironically, we just featured him last week on http://www.collegemogul.com.

    http://collegemogul.com/1/07/09/Full-Court-Peace-Bridges-Cultural-Gaps-with-Basketball-in-Belfast

    We focus on profiling young entrepreneurs, providing resources and news that they should be aware of, as well as helping them connect with other entrepreneurs, investors, and people in the tech industry.

    I’ve talked to nearly 100 young entrepreneurs over the past few months and would love to connect to make some introductions. I would also be interested in featuring your blog on our site.

    Shoot me an email at collegemogul2 [@] gmail dot com

    Rock on.

    Alex

  2. Andrea says:

    Now is the time for young men to pull up their pants and fashion to be like President Obama.

  3. Crispus says:

    I think what Mike is doing is very inspirational. His older brother must be so proud!!!

  4. Neil says:

    Crispus
    yes his older brothers are very proud of what Mike has done in Ireland and are looking forward to his future work.

  5. Alan says:

    obviously he really has no idea about the situation in Northern Ireland, i have grew up there for 22 years and never once have i seen a barricade 50 feet high. There is more sectarianism in New York than there is in Belfast. I have lived in both and have experienced both.

  6. Susan Shumway says:

    Mike, you have come a long way from that four year old I first met in Weston, and the middle schooler/high schooler who used to shoot hoops in my driveway until the wee hours of the morning! Keep up the good work. I know your parents and your (barely) older brother are very proud.

  7. Seanna says:

    Refering to the comment above by Alan, i live here in Northern Ireland and i dont know what part you are from but i can say that mike evans is 100% correct in everything he says! Also he is helping young people to stamp out the hatred and sectarianism that has existed for years and still continues to exist between the two sides, that is a great thing!! go mike!!

  8. Stevie says:

    Re Michael Evans on Belfast.

    Is this guy really that stupid ??? He doesnt have a clue about Belfast. His report almost seems based on ancient news reports. Has he ever even been to Belfast ???

  9. Stevie says:

    In fact….to suggest kids here said that about his basketball. I can only imagine he made that up. Unless of course the schoolkids were all american.

  10. Steven Legge says:

    How much of an idiot is this guy!!?? I am 23yrs old and lived in N.Ireland all my life.

    How much of an idiot does this guy have to be to say that the “sidewalks” are divided into prodestant/catholic, the schools, the sports and we didnt know what a basketball was – WTF!!??

    Only a stupid American would think that. My uncle married a catholic, I have MANY catholic and prod. friends and I used to play bball, dont be such an arrogant, idiotic prat.

    That is all

    Steven

  11. Pj says:

    Im from northern ireland and he makes us look like idiots…. the 50ft barriers are the peace lines that the lazy council havent taken down! I have friends on both sides living on the actual borers and they get no trouble… any wonder we hate the yanks!

  12. Gavy Belfast says:

    I have never heard so much muck!! 50ft fence?? Ive lived in Belfast 25 years. Where is this fence?

    Only in America…………

  13. Dave says:

    I have lived in belfast for 6 years and Washington DC for one.

    I recieved a lot more racism and biggotry in Ameica and witnessed even more towards those of Hispanic decent while in your country. The fact that these lies are covered by a major news channel in your country is a disgrace.

    This is complete lies. We all know what Basketball is and dont play it because it is a terrible sport……and its not called soccer its called football.

  14. Colin J says:

    Is this fella for real?!?

    I live in Northern Ireland and have done for for all 30 years of my life and this report makes me sick!

    Mike you truely are a God among men, I am amazed in the early 90s the US government sent over President Clinton and not you as clearly you would’ve solved the troubles in no time with your basketball, (<<did i spell that right as I have never heard of such a ball or sport). – By the way i’m being sarcastic as Americans can’t seem to tell the difference and believe all this crap they see on TV and read in the newspapers.

    Here’s an idea for your next crusade Mike. Why don’t you try and sort out your own countrys problems like having to receive help from a 3rd World charity RAM for your 47 million uninsured citizens. I’m sure these people would rather play with your basketball than recieve free health care which ironically even us backwards people in Northern Ireland receive.

    Wake up America and stop believing idiotic reports like this. As the above comments and anyone from Northern Ireland will tell you Mike is telling fibs and little white lies to make himself sound like some sort of hero. Northern Ireland is nothing like described in that report and frankly I found it an insult to watch!!!

  15. Philip Moore says:

    What an idiot , i live in Belfast and the comment about them not knowing what a basket ball was ………i mean come on dont talk pure rubbish. Americans can be so pathetically patronising , the female news reporter seems to me like shes mentally retarded. This video really has no truth to it…….segregated sidewalks ??? never seen them in all my years living here. All i cant say is thank God for Micheal Evans for sorting out are problems (Sarcasm). Hes for Lebenum next , super hopefully he can fix there crisis to. Idiots

  16. Michael Evans says:

    In no way were my comments meant to insult any part of that culture, a culture and a people that I grew to love over the two years that I lived there.
    During that time period, I spent several months living in several locations, including the Cregagh Estate, the Lower Ormeau Road and just down the street from the Short Strand. I spent time in Derry/Londonderry, in Free Derry and I know the members of that community, and on the Water Side as well, and they agree with me on my views.
    If you’ve lived in Belfast, you very well know of the current segregation in these areas. And, you very well know of the Peace Lines that stand between housing projects in these areas. In fact, there are 26 in Northern Ireland, and according several clergy members from various churches in Ardoyne, two more are currently being built on taxpayers’ money.
    I spent time as a journalist in Belfast, interviewing several well-known paramilitary leaders (many of whom had never done interviews before) about the current state of the city. They all told me (some reformed, some not) that Belfast was too raw and not ready for a move forward. I do not condone what these men have done; I am only applying a perspective to this matter.
    Yes, there are parts of Belfast where there is no segregation, parts that have come a long way (as I, an outsider, understand it) since 1969. Belfast is much improved — and I do not intend to say that in an elitist fashion in anyway whatsoever. Yes, we have problems in America that we are trying to solve. I do not deny that.
    However, the schools I worked in are populated by kids from rough backgrounds and with relatives in paramilitary groups. Getting to know them as well I could, I listened to their banter about the other side of the community, and it was ugly, hate-filled language.
    I will not dispute the height of a wall with any of you. It’s irrelevant. Please go http://www.fullcourtpeace.org and read the Testimonials section if you don’t think what I say is true; if you don’t think what the areas where we work are as I say they are, if you do not think we work with kids in need.
    I don’t mean to come across as a know-it-all American. Belfast taught me a lot more than can be learned in school, and I owe a lot of people there many, many thanks. I will never fully understand the conflict, because I never grew up there and I am not a native.
    But, when your best friends become a group of 16-year-old boys who have nothing more but a pence in their pocket and a dream to even leave Northern Ireland, why not give them a chance of their lifetime and do it in an educational way?

  17. Jake says:

    Those 50 ft. Walls that Michael Evans was talking about not only still exist today but new ones are still being built.

    See Tony Macaulat’s article below:
    http://www.macaulayassociates.co.uk/pdfs/peace_wall.pdf

    Making blanket statements based on bias is an ignorant thing to do.

    Also I think too many of you are hung up on the story where some of the kids did not recognize a basketball. It’s not that craziest thing in the world and by no means should it have an affect on the what this young man and others are trying to accomplish.

  18. Dave C says:

    I have lived in Belfast for nearly 40 years and have lived through a lot. Mike is right is what he is saying. There are indeed 50ft ‘Peace Walls’ still keeping communities separated. Why are people saying they live there and there are not. Go to the Short Strand, walk down one of the streets off the Shankill Rd and you will bump into one of them. But those who are getting upset about it are not all wrong. You are annoyed at Mike (the American) coming to Belfast (which he has done about ten time) and telling us how it is. Sometimes you need that outside – looking in perspective and he’s doing that. So give him a chance. There are still communities as divided now as they were 20/30 years ago. It’s awful. Sport is a great way of TRYING to break down those barriers. If it fails, it was always worth the try. If it works, then great you are created a ripple in the pond which may be something to work on. So please dont come down on Mike Evans. He is at least trying. You guys in Belfast should go to http://www.fullcourtpeace.org and suggest ways in which you might help. it’s all to easy to criticise and stand back doing nothing. At least show that you give a damn and tell him good luck instead of trying to BS him.

  19. Andrew says:

    Here’s the thing, it’s the easiest thing in the world to be a critic.

    Physical walls or not, there are still massive divisions in Northern Irish society. The walls in the hearts and minds of the people are 50ft and above.

    Go back 20 years and there’s a chance many of these same kids would have been trying to kill each other. Maybe some of their parents even did?

    What this organisation is doing is attempting to bring together the community at a time when projects like the much maligned Ulster Project could have enjoyed success; when Belfast is enjoying a renaissance. Companies are finally building premesis in Belfast, tourists are finally visiting the city. While people are no longer killing each other on a large scale (and remembering that in context, almost a third of all those killed in 25 years of the troubles were killed in a week in Gaza), hostility between the communities – and particularly the communities that organisations such as full court peace are targetting – still exists and will go on and on.

    Ireland has seen armed rebellion with considerable regularity in its history and it would be naive to assume that it can simply move past the troubles. With a bit of help however, it may be possible to bring up future generations in troubled communities without the hatred of their near neighbours.

  20. Mike says:

    I have lived in Belfast for almost 5 years and I too am an American. In my time here I have learned more about the world outside of America than I had in the previous 26 years. I had such trouble understanding how basketball wasn’t a big sport here and how young kids didn’t grow up playing it like I did. I have also learned, through my time coaching, that all kids Irish, American, European, Asian, African,Black, White, Protestant, or Catholic enjoy being coached and appreciate the oppurtunity to play and have someone teach them the game. I know Mike, Dave C, Andrew and understand how people can think that Mike is an American prick who is taking advantage of a situation but he can’t control how the media portrays him or the situation. Remember it’s not only America that thinks Belfast is a war zone. Ask people from the UK or even the Republic and in some cases, the uninformed will say the same things. What Mike and his organsation have done is something good and should be looked at that way. It’s not every day
    that people from both sides of the community come together. That said, I coach two teams: 1 polish, 1 lithuanian,3 american, 5 Irish Catholic, 2 Irish Protestant……..the other team: 1 scottish, 1 chinese, 1 italian, 1 singapore, 1 kuwait, 4 irish catholic, 4 irish protestant………people are playing basketball from all different backgrounds and the sport is great for bringing people together. No work done by people like Mike or politicians will ever undo or make up for the work that is done by parents and peers! But sports, all of them, are great for kids and should continue to be an area where things like religion and race don’t matter. ONLY WINNING!

  21. Debz says:

    Never in my life have I heard such drivel from anyone…never mind an american (then i suppose we’ve come to expect it from such a pampered & egotistical, humourless country)…yet again an american sticks his oar in and comes out thinking he’s a genius…

    Cross communty relations have been happening in this country for YEARS before this munky arrived…I for one remember lots of it happening quite peacefully while i was at school some years ago.

    I also have many catholic and protestant friends and family and its nothing but a word…sadly for some there’s no changing how they’ve been brought up but alas….it’ll come back and get them eventually.

    I’ve lived here for well over 20 years…i’ve had my housing estate blown up by the IRA and i’ve seen & heard some horrible things….

    but no more so than was and IS happening anywhere else in the world…esp having lived on the mainland for the last lot of years…i’d be close to saying i’ve heard more on the grapevine there than i’ve ever heard on the news here….its all about how much the media are banned from covering but believe you me it happens maybe MORESO in other countries such as Scotland and America….

    Belfast is NOTHING like is portrayed by this idiot. As for Andrew above….”tourists are FINALLY visiting the city….” incase you hadn’t noticed they were visiting BEFORE this numpty arrived…its not all down to him…

    Never in my life have I seen such a shining example of american ignorance and artistic license!

  22. Conan Hughes says:

    you deleted my comment!!! The man is a clown!! How would people not know what a basket ball is? do you think that people in N.I. live in caves and have no TV’s? Ireland has a basketball league! Michael you are a cheezey clown, a poor escuse for a sportsman who couldnt cut it as a pro player, stop trying to enhance your rep by writing such utter tripe.! The only reason you wont discuss the wall is because you tried to hype up your pathetic story by raising the height of it! Look on wikipedia the tallest peacewall is 25 feet, FACT. Put that in your next interview!

  23. Alan says:

    I certainly do not disagree with what Mike is trying to do, it is a great concept. My criticism is of how he has portrayed life in Belfast. It seems that this article has not being written to state the facts as it should be, instead it has been written to entertain an American audience. It is no wonder that many Americans still consider NI a warzone if this is the only information that is filtering back to them.

    There are many more places in America where this glory hog could be of great benefit to the community, but then he would just be an American person doing an American job, no one would be interested. Stop profiting from exploiting the past of other countries, and if you want to help, stop blowing your own trumpet about it. Sorry somethings blocking the light, oh wait its just Mr Evans’ head.

  24. Kieran says:

    I believe that what was portrayed in the interview was an Ireland in turmoil 100 years ago, a warzone, a slum, and as a national of Ireland and a resident of Belfast I felt disgusted to see how our City was described in the interview. Citizens of Northern Ireland and in particular Belfast have tried to erase the stigma that coincided with the troubles of Ireland.

    And to have Michael describe the City of Belfast as segregated places were 50ft walls separate Catholics and Protestants was despicable. Belfast has injected millions of financial stimulus to combat segregation for example the EMU project, yet unfortunately nobody wants to discuss this live success as there was no ex-semi pro basketball player blowing his own trumpet. A lot of work has been done in Northern Ireland prior to this, and for the reporter to encourage an already self absorbed Ego maniac with the statement “Basketball succeeded were politics and diplomacy failed” was additional fuel to the fire. The Good Friday agreement, the building block for the Ceasefire and the peace process was negotiated by Irish and British politicians were the mediator a man the American people crucified. Bill Clinton.

    I think in future if a reporter wants to get the true picture of a Country and what is currently happening in the city, would the best option not to be to measure up all the arguments, see all the angles before we have a man who’s main motive was not to help the Children of Belfast yet to come back to his home country and portray himself as a Martyr

  25. RaMell Ross says:

    To those who insist on posting downbeat, unconstructive comments-

    How can you deny the reality that exists for some teens and families in Belfast?

    I have lived and worked there with kids from both the Catholic and Protestant communities. Certain communities in Belfast are extremely homogenous and intolerant of members from the ‘other’ community. A large number of children and teens in the working class communities’ maintain a prejudice against those from the political, social and religious opposite.

    Please, ask the principle of Malvern Primary School in the Shankill about the sectarian mindsets of some of her students and their families. Then ask the principle at St. Claire’s Primary School in the Falls the same question. After you’ve done that, please post their understanding of the current status of the co-habitation between Catholics and Protestants in their communities.

    And yes, I have asked them these questions after breaking up fights between kids whose anger stems from socialized presumptions about the ‘other’.

    FACT: Not even close to every person in Belfast is sectarian.

    FACT: There is an enormous number, through no fault other than history, the passed on experiences of their parents, and the location of their neighborhoods, that perceive the ‘other’ negatively and through a sectarian viewfinder.

    FACT: Most kids in Northern Ireland know what basketball is.

    FACT: Some do not, and or assume BASKETBALL is synonymous with NETBALL and in turn a sport for girls.

    Is the above worth name calling and arguing over?

    FACT: Mike is dedicated to bringing teens together from opposite communities using basketball as his tool for unity and passion his source for energy. He has dramatically altered the path and in turn the lives of many boys who at 15 years of age have no role models, no direction, and no understanding of the world outside their communities. Even outside of the context of Northern Ireland that deserves appreciation. And accomplishing it within, well, let’s understate it with admirable.

    To those who are interested in the truth: please visit fullcourtpeace.org or do a simple internet search about peacewalls in Belfast, interfaces, Arydone and almost anything else.

    In mid 2007, for the first time in its history, Northern Ireland had a power sharing government with Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness as representatives. Things are changing. Slowly. And with Mike a force for change. FACT.

    Are you?

  26. Andrew says:

    Debz, did I suggest that Mike alone was bringing tourists into Northern Ireland? Of course SOME tourists were coming before, but not in the numbers they are now. To try and use that as another stick to beat Mike with is low.

    You say you’ve lived there for 20 years, so perhaps you’re not from there and are making the same assumptions about NI society that you are accusing Mike of?

    I think alot of you are missing the point. What full court peace is trying to do is help children in Northern Ireland integrate. When did that become a bad thing?

  27. Kristina C says:

    People being outraged about how the NI conflicts(or lack there of, to some of you) have been portrayed on CNN is fine, the American popular media are no strangers to spin, exaggeration, and distortion. But despite the exact measurements of these walls, Irish knowledge of basketball, and other details that, admittedly paint Belfast in a negative color I think the point is that there is someone making an effort to solve a problem. The severity of the problem can be debated but I don’t think Mike’s intentions can. For those of you calling him an idiot and resorting to the practice of name-calling as a form of argument, do the right thing and look at what Mike is doing without the lens of CNN. Check out his website and ask people who are involved in the program then you can choose whether or not to chase him with your pitch forks. The fact that people are publicly attacking Mike for trying to help out with an issue that has become important to him could be the reason why more people do not take action when an issue concerns them. Save your outrage for the real atrocities in the world, and have some perspective on the news media, especially American and its intentions. I am not American and though I do know Mike, I don’t even like him that much, so I have no stake in the dignity of either, but I am very concerned when we start crucifying people who are trying to make a positive difference in the world. I challenge anyone to say that encouraging sport in any neighborhood – be it Greenwich, Connecticut, Belfast, Ireland, or Baghdad, Iraq is ever a bad thing.

    So if this is your first time watching American mainstream news coverage and you’re upset that an area of the world has been distorted for the masses, then get comfortable at your computer because you’ll have A LOT of angry blogging to do.

  28. mloz says:

    OMG Nicole you’re HOT!

  29. Gareth Stitt says:

    I was born into a family in the Short Strand area of Belfast. My earliest memory is looking out my bedroom window and seeing an IRA guman patrolling the courtyard in the middle of the block of houses in our street. A short time after that my family decided to move us up to a “safe” area of Belfast. We moved to an area that was “safer” in the sense of the word that we wouldn’t see paramilitary gunmen patrol the street anymore or that we weren’t living in a conflict zone like the Short Strand. But the area we moved to had a considerably higher threat in the form of stolen cars (joyriding), anti social behaviour etc. If you found me someone that has grown up in Belfast and hasn’t witnessed any sort of sectarian hatred, no matter how small, I’d call them a liar. We hear in the news EVERY SINGLE DAY of an attack on a person/people or buildings that have sectarian motives behind them.

    I had the opportunity to attend a cross community organisation for many years where I became friends with many protestants. If I had continued to be brought up in the Short Strand, then I would probably have been influenced to “hate” protestants, simply because of their religion. This cross community organisation was City of Belfast School of Music in Donegall Pass – an almost 100% protestant street (back then). When I was 16, my best friend at the time got beat up by a group of local boys on the street simply because he didn’t say the letter “h” properly (catholics pronounce the “ha” sound i.e. “haitch” and protestants “aitch” – sounds stupid, but in 99% of cases is true). When he got home he asked his mother why the boys beat him up and she told him of the sectarian hatred they had. He could never come to terms with why people reacted like this and it affected him so bad that he took his own life, aged 16.

    I now work for the City of Belfast School of Music and I am involved in schools on both sides of the divide (some schools that Mike is working with) and I can assure that in those schools you will find that some of the kids have so much sectarian hatred, simply because they were brought up around it and it was passed down through the generations. It’s a minority of people that are still in this way of thinking, but if it’s being passed down through generations, when will it stop?

    I think Mike and his team in Belfast are doing a great job. If it wasn’t for his organisation then some of these kids would never get to play on a team with the other religion. Some of these kids come from lower working class families that cant afford family holidays and their sons are getting to go to America. It’s a great idea that is working well and long may it continue in Belfast and Northern Ireland.

  30. Robert Lillie says:

    Mike has deffinately made a difference in Northern Ireland, for me anyways, because he came over to Northern Ireland i now look at catholics and have no problems with them. He tought us alot and i learned that we are both equal and have many same hobbies.
    Mike has done something powerful and i speak on behalf of the team (Belfast Blazers) that we are all proud of him and wish him all the luck with his next big step in life.

  31. Dre says:

    I love this blog and the interviews, they’re so encouraging to other young folk out there. I’m glad to see these reports as positive, upbeat messages to the listeners because the media seems to have forgotten to spread the GOOD news as well. Nicole’s reports are some of the few positive ones remaining out there. 4 thumbs up!

  32. S Callahan says:

    Michael, what you are doing is what missonaries strive to achive…you are doing God’s work whether you realize it or not…Kudos to you!

    I vote you second!

  33. Morgan says:

    Hey Michael..
    You are doing a great job

    email me:
    morganyoung_4@hotmail.com

  34. Jim says:

    I don’t know, but basketball is usually how fights get started in my middle and high school back in the days. Maybe using basketball as a way of making or keeping peace is not a good idea. Trying something non-contact, like volleyball.

    Jian

  35. ;michael evans says:

    tht is amazing cuz we have the same name

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