Trevor Ringland and Dave Cullen | ESPY Arthur Ashe Award for Courage Special

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In 2007 Protestant rugby star Trevor Ringland and Dave Cullen, a Catholic basketball player, were awarded the Ashe Award for using sport to help bridge divides in their native Northern Ireland.

In the 1920s the predominantly Catholic Republic of Ireland withdrew from the United Kingdom and certain heavily Protestant counties in the north decided to remain part of the United Kingdom forming Northern Ireland. After the separation, there was a sustained period of violence and disagreement between Catholics and Protestants in the country. Ringland and Cullen grew up on opposite sides of the 30-year conflict known as “The Troubles,” the most heightened period of violence. Cullen’s father was killed in the conflict and Ringland’s father, a policeman was regularly threatened by the Irish Republican Army, an Irish Catholic paramilitary group. Growing up, both men saw firsthand what hate, distrust and violence did to their community.

In 2005 an organization called Peace Players International approached Cullen and Ringland about organizing a basketball camp where students of a Catholic school could share the court with students of a Protestant school. Basketball, unlike rugby, cricket, Gaelic football or hurling, was not associated with either community so it was a neutral sport for the two schools. Leading up to the event, tensions in the community were high but the camp was a success. Peace Players International went on to host hundreds of camps, tournaments and events in Northern Ireland. Cullen and Ringland used sport to make sure the next generation could grow up free of the divisions that had warped and bloodied their country for decades.


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