Special Olympics International and Microsoft have teamed up to tackle technology in sports.
Even a giant non-profit organization such as Special Olympics will have issues it needs to work through. Special Olympics International hosts 108,000 events per year, but according to GeekWire, “one of the heaviest lifts for the non-profit came from the basic mechanics of runnings their signature sporting events.”
At each event, there were functions of tallying scores, registering athletes and setting up matches. People would have to wait long hours to find out the schedule for the following day. In 2014, Microsoft and Special Olympics International teamed up to upgrade and automate technology pieces of the operations. Microsoft opened up its arms to help modernize the IT infrastructure that Special Olympics had been using.
“It’s an opportunity for us to present Seattle as a city of inclusion. We will have athletes and families coming to Seattle from every state in the country,” said Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer of Microsoft, as well as the honorary chair of the games. As an official sponsor of the Special Olympics in Seattle in July 2018, Microsoft has embraced its role as partner and transformed the way Special Olympics executes its events. Over the past few years, Microsoft has helped through software donation, technical assistance, and a program to employ disabled workers.
Don’t think that this is a one-sided partnership though. Microsoft has been able to learn more about the needs of people who participate in Special Olympics. It has been eye opening for the organization to see at the ground level what it can do to be more inclusive as a company for people around the world. It’s a true collaboration between Microsoft, who is dedicated to helping and impacting as many consumers as possible, and Special Olympics, who tries to “transform lives through the joy of sport.”
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LeBron James Family Foundation helps launch a new public school in Akron, Ohio.
LeBron James is a champion on the court. There’s no denying that as he’s won 2 NBA titles with the Miami Heat and 1 with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Off the court, there may not be a more community minded athlete than James. The LeBron James Family Foundation has long been a standard of excellence – he pledged to fund the education for 40 students at the University of Akron and has been a pillar in the community.
Never one to settle, James and his foundation have identified their next major initiative: the I Promise School. James, his foundation, and the Akron Public Schools have created a new public school aimed at educating students who are at-risk in reading and need academic support in the most critical years.
According to USA Today, James said, “This school is so important to me because our vision is to create a place for the kids in Akron who need it most – those who could fall through the cracks if we don’t do something. We’ve learned over the years what works and what motivates them, and now we can bring all of that together in one place along with the right resources and experts. If we get to them early enough, we can hopefully keep them on the right track to a bigger and brighter future for themselves and their families.”
Initially, the school will house third and fourth grade students; by 2022, the school will be open to students in grades one through eight. James has stepped up to the plate in a major way. He has become a bridge for at-risk children to provide resources for their success. This school will help teach children at a formative age and provide the proper education for future success.
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NCAA student-athletes, coaches, and staff gathered to learn best practices in Inclusion in college sports.
This past month, the NCAA brought a group of academic and athletic leaders together with student-athletes to discuss the state of educational and professional environments at NCAA institutions. While the NCAA typically catches flack around March madness for what some believe to be athlete exploitation, this year, the Inclusion Forum may have granted it some reprieve.
The Forum was no publicity stunt, however. Sessions included heavy-hitting topics like balancing LGBTQ inclusion with religious freedom, recognizing and addressing racial tension, and collaborating with disability services. Several speakers addressed the challenges women face in the sports world, from securing head coaching positions to sexual assault on campus. One session was centered almost entirely on knowing the names and accomplishments of our Paralympic Athletes, incredibly profound in its simplicity. There was even a breakdown on how hip-hop culture is impacting student-athletes. The goal was to discuss policy, research, and best practices as it applies to inclusionary practices for student-athletes, coaches, and staff.
The roster of presenters included the best across industries, each bringing a unique perspective to the conversation. Attendees heard from Title IX champions, Dr. Christine Grant and Dr. Charlotte West, William Rhoden, sports journalist for ESPN’s The Undefeated, and mental health advocate Happy Carlock from the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Not only did attendees learn from experts in the field, they also engaged in practical skill-building workshops like creating climate surveys for the workplace and utilizing a tool-kit to improve race relations in athletic departments. Participants learned about code-switching and language barriers and how those communication skills can positively impact student-athletes’ experiences.
The Forum even included issues that don’t always come to top of mind when thinking about inclusion. For example, college football Hall of Famer Don McPherson spoke on “healthy masculinity and the damaging effects of misogyny on male athletes, and Emily Pasnak-Lapchick of UNICEF, together with her father Richard Lapchick, PhD, explained how sports have the power to support the fight against human trafficking.
The NCAA Inclusion Forum seemed to hit the mark; topics were relevant and in-depth, and participants left with new knowledge to conquer the challenges of our day. The NCAA is to be applauded for its efforts to bring concrete change to its institutions, and hopefully the Forum will be the first step of many towards advancing inclusion in athletic programs nationwide.
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Athletes from across leagues share their personal stories during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Last month people across the country recognized Sexual Assault Awareness month, and professional athletes, both male and female, lent their voices to the cause. To honor sexual assault survivors, Mic partnered with several athletes to create “Athletes United”, a series of short but powerful videos about their personal connections to sexual assault.
Titus O'Neil, WWE superstar, shared his family’s story, revealing that he is a product of his mother’s traumatic rape at age 11. Having witnessed the lasting emotional toll it took on his mom, O’Neil has decided to use his platform to remind people that ending sexual violence is a worthy charge, and he is committed to standing with victims and doing what he can to curb sexual assaults across the country.
Layshia Clarendon of the Atlanta Dream penned an essay declaring herself a survivor of sexual assault, imploring readers to recognize the harmful effects of rape culture and work to reframe the discussion. Her teammate, Elizabeth Williams, addressed how the culture surrounding sports can exacerbate the problem of sexual assault because athletes often hold special positions in their communities and, therefore, are not always held accountable for their transgressions.
Wade Davis, former NFL cornerback, encouraged all athletes to amplify this message and use their resources to speak out against sexual violence, both in the sports community and in their communities. And DeAndre Levy, former Detroit Lion, has been raising funds to test rape kits in Detroit, inspired by his wife, Desire Vincent, and her own experience with sexual assault.
“Athletes United” is compelling activism for many reasons. First, it shares several voices, from female survivors to male allies. Including both genders is crucial to the effectiveness of this message. Second, the pieces have been drawn from several different professional sports leagues, proving that sexual assault is a pressing issue for everyone, not just one of two sports. Finally, each athlete in the series addresses a different aspect of sexual assault; they touch on the shame victims may feel, the pitfalls of the justice system, the implications of sports culture and sexual violence, and the importance of athletes using their positions to contribute to the solution. The collection of perspectives gives viewers a more complete picture of the problem, and thus, a better understanding of what needs to be done, within the sports world and without.
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Reebok is changing the game with plant-based, sustainable shoes.
As brands everywhere shift to more socially responsible practices, Reebok is going the extra mile in its brand new, plant-based shoes. Their objective is to create shoes “made from things that grow”. If the company is successful, they will be the first to produce a plant-based shoe with an organic cotton upper and a base of industrial grown corn.
According to SportTechie, Head of Reebok Future, Bill McInnis, explained, “First, with product development we’re using materials that grow and can be replenished, rather than the petroleum-based materials commonly used today. Second, when the product hits the market we know our consumers don’t want to sacrifice on how sneakers look and perform. Finally, we care about what happens to the shoes when people are done with them. So, we’ve focused on plant-based materials such as corn and cotton at the beginning, and compostability in the end.” Moreover, Reebok envisions recycling old Cotton + Corn shoes into compost for soil to grow more materials.
Reebok has recognized that athletic shoes, an item it produces, are contributing to waste and pollution problems around the globe. It hopes their new initiative will be an effective solution to a growing problem. The Cotton + Corn line will be the product of a partnership with DuPont Tate & Lyle Bio products who manufactures high-performance bio-based solutions.
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