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Sports and Social Change


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Associated Sports
Causes Served


CAUSES SERVED: Athletics, Children and Youth, Community, Disability Issues, Education, Health, Human Rights, Peace, Poverty, Race & Equality, Special Needs, Women's Issues
EMAIL: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
WEBSITE: http://www.sportforward.org


Forward. By definition, the word represents movement, progress, direction – all of which are qualities embodied within organizations throughout the Sport for Development sector. For SportForward it also represents the movement they’ve helped to create over the past 25 years by providing sports programming for communities in-need in 65 countries around the globe. SportForward’s programs use sport as a developmental tool to address key issues in education, health & hygiene, gender and disability awareness & inclusion, and peace building. As these issues continue to be challenges found around the world, their programs have reached thousands of youth and adults, and worked to bridge the divide and foster stronger communities.

We asked SportForward for some perspective on where they’ve been over those 25 years, where the sector is headed and what we can do collectively to keep moving, forward.

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Ivy Sports SymposiumThe annual Ivy Sports Symposium (Friday, Nov 14 in Princeton, NJ) has quickly become one of the top sports business events of the year, and the 2014 event has some great sessions on topics at the intersection of sports business and causes. The "Sport for Social Impact: Shared Value" panel features several thought leaders in the growing Sport for Development space including Nick Gates (Coaches Across Continents), Todd Smith (Weinstein Carnegie Philanthropic Group) and Ethan Zohn (Grassroot Soccer). Later in the day, the ever-prevalent topic of diversity takes center stage with Wade Davis (You Can Play), Claude Johnson (Black Fives Foundation) and Kevin Carr (PRO2CEO) at the "Diversity in Sport: Leveling the Playing Field" session.

The day is filled with sessions that span the sports business landscape, and feature several very high profile industry leaders including:

  • Jérôme de Chaunac, Global COO, Havas Sports & Entertainment
  • Brett Clarke, Global Head, Business Development and Marketing Partnerships, Nitro Circus
  • Bill Daly, Deputy Commissioner, National Hockey League
  • Bill Duffy, COO, The Aspire Group
  • Troy Ewanchyna, VP, Business Development & Digital Strategies, NBC Sports Group
  • Donald Fehr, Executive Director, NHL Players' Association
  • Greg Luckman, Global Head, Consulting, CAA Sports
  • Pat O'Conner, President & CEO, Minor League Baseball
  • Scott O’Neil, CEO, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Devils & Prudential Center
  • Phil de Picciotto, Co-Founder & President, Octagon
  • Marc Reeves, International Commercial Director, NFL
  • Rick Shapiro, Senior Executive, MLB Players Association
  • David Sternberg, Head, Media, Manchester United
  • Sam Walker, Global Sports Editor, The Wall Street Journal
  • Mark Wilf, Owner & President, Minnesota Vikings


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When we created this platform, the name "Sports and Social Change" was something that came to us pretty easily. Our entire initiative is to focus on the intersection of sports and the people, programs and events that drive positive social change. However, we realize what doesn't come easy is that change. It takes time, unwavering dedication and often great sacrifice to enact lasting change in society.


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The Olympic flame in London is out and the summer games are closed. So many great stories and moments over 17 days that it's hard to wrap it all up in a few paragraphs.

I've spent the past week digging a little deeper to find some of the "stories behind the stories" of these games that showcase how sports can drive change - on a personal level, a national level and even a global scale. Some are about athletes that were heavily featured on the broadcast coverage, while others flew a bit more under the radar. But in all, these were "glorious and happy games" as IOC President Jacque Rogge said. Hopefully, that spirit will carry on for years to come...

"Inspire a Generation" was the theme of the London 2012 games. Perhaps no one personified that more than Oscar Pistorius. He broke barriers, showed what was possible and represented his country with ultimate class and sportsmanship. And hopefully, he's opened everyone's eyes to what the Paralympic movement and adaptive sports are all about. The Paralympic Games start on Aug 29th and this could be the sea change moment to bring adaptive/disabled sports into the public eye.

Without question, these were historic games simply for the fact that for the first time, every competing nation sent female athletes. For Team USA, the women out-numbered the men, also a first. And the successes speak for themselves: The women of Team USA took home more Gold medals than the men. Team sports victories in Soccer, Water Polo and Gymnastics, and individual medals in Boxing, Judo, Fencing, Cycling, Rowing and Tennis well outclassed their male teammates. And a new World Record by the Women's 4 x 100 Relay team on the final weekend put a nice cap on the overall accomplishments of women at these games.

UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Mr. Wilfried Lemke noted “There were a number of notable occasions and initiatives before and during these 17 days of competition that contributed to the legacy that these Games will have in the long run. In particular, the inclusion of female athletes in all delegations, including Saudi Arabia, will help change mentalities and is a very encouraging step in the fight for gender equality and women’s empowerment in and through sport.”

At the same time, there were still moments where athletic achievement took a back seat to the stereotypical "guys like to watch hot chicks" mentality which put NBC in a bit of a bind. Athletes are often beautiful people, with well crafted physiques. However, the Olympics are a chance to showcase abilities rather than "attributes," and for women's sports to truly be viewed on par with men's, we as a viewing public - and those who feed us the content - have to get past this.

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Black athletes and racism. It's a topic that unfortunately bubbles up to the surface several times a year. And this week was no different.
Wait a minute - this week was VERY different...

Two black athletes, two instances of racism. But the similarities ended there.
Because one was a victim and one a perpetrator.

Detroit Tigers' Delmon Young arrested for hate crime.
Not quite the headline you expect to read in your Saturday morning sports section. According to reports, Young was heavily intoxicated and harassed a pan-handler on the street in New York, yelling anti-semitic remarks

New York police spokesman Joseph Cavitolo told the Detroit Free Press that a confrontation began around 2:30 a.m., after a group of men spoke with a panhandler. Delmon Young, allegedly drunk, exchanged words with the men. According to Cavitolo, Young said, “You bunch of f---ing Jews.” He then pushed one of the men, tackled him to the ground, and then followed the man into the hotel’s lobby. Young was then arrested, and had to be sent to a nearby hospital due to his level of intoxication.

This comes on the heels of the racist "tweets" from Boston Bruins fans directed at Washington Capitals' Joel Ward, after he scored a series ending, game 7 overtime goal in the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs.

Ward handled it in stride, and both the NHL and the Bruins' organization stepped up to denounce the racist comments. The NHL has made big strides with its diversity program Hockey is for Everyone led by ambassador Willie O'Ree - known as the Jackie Robinson of hockey for breaking the color barrier in the 1950's.

I think ESPN's Scoop Jackson summed it up well: "Tweets masked as feelings that weren't about him as much as they were about the society we live in."

Racism in any form is racism. These stories need to get out so we can all recognize that racism and anti-semitism are still issues in the sports community. Whether it be on the field, off the rink, after the game, among players, fans, whomever, whenever, there's no place for it and it needs to stop.

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