Pro Bowler for the Philadelphia Eagles visits D.C. politicians to talk criminal justice reform.
Malcolm Jenkins, a Pro Bowler for the Philadelphia Eagles, has joined a growing group of athletes advocating for social justice and racial equality. Jenkins started with a small but powerful gesture – raising his fist during the national anthem. Soon after, he traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers about ongoing criminal justice reform efforts. Jenkins has met with Philadelphia’s Caucus of Working Educators to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement. Just recently, he did a ride-along with a Philadelphia police officer to get a firsthand look at the reality of working in law enforcement.
Jenkins’ progression from silent protest to policy advocacy is an excellent example of how one individual can make waves of change. He is realizing his unique power and influence as a professional athlete to gain a seat at the table. We often talk about pro athletes having a platform and resources (i.e. money, partners, fans, and followers) which they can use to advance a cause. But we tend to overlook another piece of the puzzle: athletes have access. They have relatively easy access to powerful people and institutions that have major impact on policy reform. Simply having a seat at the table can be an invaluable resource, and pro athletes will almost always be granted a seat if they ask. Jenkins explained that his trip to D.C. made him realize how he was “able to get meetings that the people who are actually doing work on the ground probably can’t get.” The real life experience from his ride-along, coupled with the perspective he gained from D.C. lawmakers, has given Jenkins a more complete picture of police brutality in our country. He is to be commended for making an effort to hear both sides of the story and taking the time to learn the state of community-police relations in America, instead of taking a hardline stance before knowing all the facts.
Jenkins reflected on his ride-along, explaining that police brutality is “a symptom of the justice system they’re on the front lines of….They act in accordance with the policies and laws that govern them. So, when…we don’t see any kind of accountability or repercussions for people losing their lives…it’s because the policies that [police are] governed by allows it.” Going forward, Jenkins is intent on working towards treating the underlying causes of racial divides instead of the symptoms. His mission is to bring about real reform to police training and, ultimately, the criminal justice system.
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Read how Figure Skating in Harlem, Inc. won Beyond Sport’s Sport For Education Award.
Figure Skating in Harlem, Inc. has won Beyond Sport’s Sport For Education Award for its innovative ICE program. ICE: I Can Excel after-school program uses figure skating to reach impoverished girls of color in inner city New York and improve their academic performance, physical health, and emotional well-being. Participants develop life skills, receive academic tutoring, and cultivate skating skills.
Figure skating is historically a predominantly white sport, so ICE is groundbreaking in that it targets black and brown girls. Yet, it goes several steps beyond that and also incorporates classes in financial literacy, STEM, and college readiness. Each girl has access to tutors, teachers, social workers, counselors, and skating coaches. The all-encompassing programming sets each girl on a path to good grades and healthy living.
At the same time, the sport itself is being diversified. Often, it only takes one athlete’s success to show that everyone, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, or religion should have access to all sports. Ibtihaj Muhammad’s success in fencing has empowered Muslim girls to pursue the sport. Simone Manual broke barriers in the pool proving to black girls everywhere that swimming is an option for them. ICE is providing access to sport in communities that typically are ignored, not just by the skating community, but by most sports outside of basketball and football.
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Florida State Seminoles Head Coach Jimbo Fisher and Xavier Rhodes recall how the Kidz1st was created.
Florida State Seminoles Head Coach Jimbo Fisher has one of the top jobs in all of college football. He perennially fields a national championship contending team as his players are always ready to play. He has won a national championship, coached dozens of players into the NFL and made millions of dollars. All of that success couldn’t have prepared him to hear these fateful words: “Your son Ethan has Fanconi anemia.” Now, Coach Fisher had no idea what that was, but he does remember being told that there wasn’t a cure for the illness and that the average life expectancy was 23 years old. As a father, it was crushing to him as he felt it was his responsibility to protect his children and ensure they had a long and happy life. The family kept the condition quiet for a while, but they finally decided to announce it to the world. Fisher said, “After that day, I realized that God put me in this position to not only help Ethan, but also to fight for all those affected by Fanconi anemia.”
Xavier Rhodes was a star cornerback for the Seminoles who was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings. He was close with Coach Fisher and Ethan. Rhodes found out that Ethan was being treated at the University of Minnesota, and he immediately realized he was there for a reason. Rhodes got involved with Kidz1st, which is an organization aimed at bringing awareness to the disease and to help find a cure. Coach Fisher and Rhodes know that their purpose is to use their platform to raise awareness for this cause. Coach Fisher knows he can use his stature to make a difference and help push towards a cure.
This is what sports is all about – using the unique platform to create social impact. From tragedy comes great success. Ultimately, Coach Fisher is helping children with Fanconi anemia all over the world and those who will be diagnosed with it in the future. Hopefully, fans and community members can come together to push towards that cure.
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Learn the role of funding a program versus supporting a program.
Laureus Sport for Good states in its mission that the organization supports programs rather than just funding them. There is a difference – anyone can write a check, but not anyone can provide the resources to help make a program a success.
Laureus Sport for Good works hand in hand with their partners to identify areas in which they need training and development to ensure they get what they need. This can be anything from financial controls, processes and procedures, or best practices. Furthermore, Laureus helps develop tools to measure the impact of what its partners are doing. This is imperative because everyone is ultimately judged on the impact side. By providing a metric, both organizations can analyze the results and try to improve year over year. Sports are a tool for social impact, so Laureus helps monitor the programs.
Since Laureus is an international organization, it can help streamline processes for its partners. For example, a soccer program in Israel may have similar experiences to a program in the United States. By having the working knowledge of what organizations are doing around the globe, Laureus can help connect the dots and maximize impact for all parties involved. Rather than having a bunch of independent sport programs working to effect change around the globe, Laureus helps create conversations and brings the right people in the room for maximum efficiency.
Any organization can write a check and fund a program. While our world needs these types of organizations, it also needs partners to be there every step of the way. Having an organization work hand in hand ensures that best practices can be created and followed to create a long-lasting global impact.
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Team managers are going above and beyond to impact communities here and abroad.
Everyone knows the parts that make up a sports team – the players, the coaches, and the owners. But, fans often overlook key people that keep things running like a well-oiled machine – the managers. Team managers are integral at every level. They work behind the scenes to support both the players and the coaches in whatever capacity necessary, and they often end up in successful careers in the sports industry.
For some college managers, building their resume and securing a job in sports is the ultimate goal. Drew Boe, former manager at the University of Minnesota, realized that his experience and position could benefit a far greater purpose. After recognizing the opportunity big schools have from their multi-million dollar deals with brands like Nike and Adidas, Boe started Managers on a Mission (MOAM).
MOAM’s mission is to develop leaders at home and abroad through sport and the gospel. It’s a layered approach to international development. First and foremost, their goal is to engage African orphans through sport by providing donated athletic gear and running two-week sports camps. In order to carry out their mission, MOAM organizes trips for managers who want to experience hands-on service in the global south. Lastly, MOAM encourages both the orphans they support and the managers who travel to pursue a life in Christianity.
MOAM partners with the Rafiki Foundation to facilitate trips to its orphanages, and in its four years of existence, twenty student managers have been able to experience the life-changing mission. MOAM also depends heavily on equipment managers at eighty college and twenty professional teams to donate their teams’ excess gear through the Clean Out for a Cause program. Donations are used in two ways: (1) gear is distributed to orphanages during manager-led trips, or (2) gear is sold via eBay for Charity to fund trips and scholarships for MOAM.
MOAM believes that sport is “the most influential platform in our country”, and they are successfully using that platform to change lives. With more and more managers signing up to participate in mission trips and Clean Out for a Cause, MOAM is helping to lift up the next generation who will go on to be influential leaders in the sports industry. By providing managers with a philanthropic experience early on in their careers, MOAM is instilling important values that they will take with them into their next professional roles.
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Star athletes ‘Stand Up’ and speak about their experiences with online bullying.
It’s a surprise to no one that there has been a drastic increase of online bullying. Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have all made a positive impact on the sports experience. Whether it’s watching a game, engaging with strangers or friends, or finding a community of like-minded individuals, social media has greatly enhanced how we consume sports.
Social media, however, has also given a voice to bullies. It’s evident because First Lady Melania Trump has stated she will focus on fighting online bullying. Strangers, trolls or instigators will insult athletes if they miss a shot or perform poorly. This escalates to bullying, death threats and obscenities being passed around the internet. As a result, a group of athletes are speaking out against bullying in a new video produced by The Players’ Tribune. Derek Jeter, along with Von Miller, Michael Phelps, Danica Patrick and Karl-Anthony Towns discuss the abuse they’ve encountered online. Fans typically idolize athletes and put them on a pedestal. This video is a powerful message because it humanizes these athletes and shows that they’re similar to us. No one deserves this treatment regardless of circumstances, as reading comments and posts can lead down a dark path. The ‘Stand Up’ campaign encourages those who need help to stand up and get it. Furthermore, it calls on everyone to be accountable and stand up for others. Athletes, fans and any person can be a victim of online bullying, so society needs to band together to be there for each other.
The Atlanta Hawks host the MOSAIC symposium to discuss social activism and sports.
The Atlanta Hawks believe that athletes are human beings. Sports don’t need to be free of politics and social issues simply because of the industry. Nzinga Shaw, Hawks’ Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, believes when one ignores what’s going on in the world, it’s possible to come across as inauthentic. To help combat this, she created the Model of Shaping Atlanta through Inclusive Conversations (MOSAIC) symposium. The event brought 300 Atlanta residents to network and listen to the role that sports leaders play in diversity in their local communities.
According to Shaw and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the goal for this year was “how to extend the conversation beyond race and gender.” The segment before lunch tackled athletes and how they use their platforms to shed light on important social issues. The one after lunch explored how corporate executives and their organizations tackle diversity in an authentic manner.
The Undefeated’s Marc Spears moderated the first panel. Keri Potts, a panelist, discussed her fight to have the man who sexually assaulted her in Italy prosecuted. She credits sports with providing her the power to escape her attacker and be an advocate for other victims. Former NBA player, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, spoke of how he was blackballed from the NBA for not standing for the national anthem after he had converted to Islam. According to the AJC, “he spoke on the differences between the society in which he protested and the social-media driven world in which Colin Kaepernick recently protested. Abdul-Rauf said he believes social media amplifies the voices of everyday people, giving supporters and critics a way to share their thoughts with a mass audience.”
This type of conference helps spur the conversation that is needed in society. It gives a voice to leaders in our communities and hopefully provides an outlet for other community members to think about these issues. Hopefully, social activism trickles down to individuals because there is great ability to effect change if everyone plays a small part.
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