Exclusive: How Rihanna's Surprise Clippers Game Selfie Is Now Helping LAPD Kids and Cops [UPDATED]

The pop star dropped Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff’s iPhone at an L.A. Clippers game, but the mistake turned lucky for the city’s Cadet Program and families of fallen officers.

(Photo: Jacob Soboroff/Instagram)

May 12, 2014· 2 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Sure, romance didn't bloom between Rihanna and Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff on the kiss cam on Saturday night during Game 3 of the Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder NBA play-off series in Los Angeles, but don’t think the Bajan star doesn’t have a heart.

After accidentally dropping Soboroff’s phone (she took a now-viral selfie with him) and cracking its screen, RiRi showed exactly why her fans love her. She generously agreed to autograph Soboroff’s phone and let him auction it off on eBay to raise funds for the underserved kids in the LAPD Cadet program and officers who’ve fallen in the line of duty.

The Cadet Program, which is run by the Los Angeles Police Foundation, teaches the city’s underserved teenagers character education and ethics, as well as public speaking and conflict resolution. It also gets the teens into tip-top physical shape through a running, calisthenics, and obstacle course program.

Soboroff, who happens to be the dad of TakePart Live host Jacob Soboroff (tune in tonight at 10 p.m. ET on our sister network, Pivot), says the program receives generous support from the Ray Charles Foundation so that 400 students can attend. “But demand [for the program] is so great we can now serve 700,” he says. That means raising an additional “$240,000 for 300 underserved kids to enroll, attend, and graduate from the multiyear program,” says Soboroff.

Saturday night was only the second time that Soboroff had sat next to the singer in the courtside seats, which are owned by Universal Music Group. While she wasn’t down to smooch with him, she was willing to listen to Soboroff tell her about the tragic death on Saturday of an LAPD officer—the fifth officer lost since March 7.

“I told her that a photo with us wearing LAPD wristbands would bring a huge needed smile to the faces of our 10,000 men and women LAPD officers,” says Soboroff. RiRi generously agreed, so “I hand her my iPhone [to take the] selfie, as she said she knows how to do it.”

“Trying to pose and show the wristbands was tough, and her hands were full anyway, so the phone fell on the floor,” Soboroff says. The phone already had a crack, says Soboroff, “but this fall shattered the screen!”

Now the mishap has turned into an incredible opportunity to make a difference in the lives of Los Angeles’ youths.

Soboroff saw Rihanna again on Sunday night at Game 4 and told her of his plans to auction the phone. The star wrote, “Sorry! I ♥ LAPD. Rihanna,” on it—an apology for breaking the phone in the first place.

Bidding for the phone starts at $250, and Soboroff hopes to raise at least $10,000. Half of the winning bid money will go to the cadets, and the other half will go toward the Los Angeles Police Memorial Foundation to support the families of fallen officers.

If the auction of the “Rihanna Selfie” phone brings in $10,000, “it would be huge, and the worldwide attention can help [raise] the rest” of the funds, says Soboroff.

UPDATED May 12—7:15 p.m.

The good karma from that cell phone gaffe just won’t let up. It was just announced on TakePart Live that the pop star plans to donate $25,000 of her own money to the Los Angeles Police Foundation after hearing more about the program and the underserved children it helps. That's a whole lot of kids helped from one shattered screen.

UPDATED May 14—4:15 p.m.

It looks like Rihanna's "selfie fail" is turning out to be seriously good news for Los Angeles’ kids. As of this writing, bids for the broken phone have reached an amazing $56,100 and there are still a little over 20 hours left in the auction.

UPDATED May 15—1:15 p.m.

With a winning bid of $66,500, the auction for Steven Soboroff's cracked and autographed-by-Rihanna phone has officially come to a close. Combined with the $25,000 donated from the generous pop star, that's $91,500 raised for the LAPD's programs.