Tester, Booker commend Arlee basketball’s suicide-prevention video

by Missoulian, Amie Just

MISSOULA – The suicide awareness and prevention videos that the Arlee boys’ basketball team put together have gained significant traction, with two U.S. senators weighing in with praise.

The video the Warriors made ahead of winning their state title during the first week of March has eclipsed 1 million views on Facebook and has more than 35,000 shares.

When the video came out on March 1, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester was one of those shares, writing: “These student athletes embody what it means to be teammates (and) Montanans. We’re all in this together and we need to look out for one another. Mental health care is just as important as physical health care and I’m so proud that the Arlee Warrior basketball team decided to take a stand and raise awareness about the issue of suicide. These are Montana’s next generation of leaders.”

That was only the first message Tester shared about the Warriors and their efforts.

Tester, alongside New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, made a video that was shared on Tester’s Facebook page Thursday afternoon commending and thanking Arlee for its suicide prevention efforts.

“(Tester’s) been talking about you guys behind your backs about how extraordinary your victories have been on the court and off the court,” Booker said, directing his message to the team.

The two raved about Arlee’s talents on the court, as the Warriors finished the 2017-18 season on a winning streak of 48 straight games, including two back-to-back state titles.

The two Senators consider one another good friends and have played a little basketball together themselves – something they joke about in the video.

Tester proudly proclaims that he beat Booker, a former college football player, to which Booker replies that Tester beat him up.

“He plays a game called no autopsy, no foul and hit me so hard it took me about a month to recover,” Booker said.

Then Tester and Booker spoke of Arlee’s videos.

“That’s what got me here, to say thank you to you all,” Booker said, again addressing the team. “You are Warriors in the deepest sense of the word, on the basketball court, but you are peaceful Warriors off the court – what you’re doing, understanding the power of activism. Athletes who are active in their communities often are the ones that can make tremendous change.”

Without naming them, Booker lists examples of famous activist athletes, like Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the 1968 Olympics, and mentioning recent activism within sports across other platforms.

“But what you all have done, showing courageous empathy, showing a caring compassion, to me, it blew me away,” Booker said.

Tester added: “We just want to say thank you. Thank you for what you’ve done. Keep up the good work. You guys are young in life. You’ve had a lot of success. … Congratulations on back-to-back state championships, but also congratulations on a great video that draws attention to a subject that not a lot of people want to talk about.”