As I fumed in disgust, yet eerily not surprised on Sunday reading the horrific headlines of the terrorist and hate crime acts in Orlando, a familiar thought crept into my mind "How can sports help to resolve these issues?"
Admittedly it has been some time since I've written here. End of the semester proffesoring my inaugural Athlete Speak course at USC's impressive Annenberg School of Communication, pushing forward on my documentary projects in sports + social issues, advising a start-up in the sports + social change space using crowdfunding and taking some time to delve into my personal philanthropy of international diplomatic relations and human rights issues had me slightly busy over the last couple of months.
In general, nothing compelled me to sit down and write down thoughts I had to share up until now. Conversations about a marginalized group of hopeless young men and women all susceptible to ISIS's well-thought-out online propaganda were running through my mind. Digital media that is apparently as well written as TIME and the Wall Street Journal have seeped into these malleable minds with unfortunate outcomes.
As usual, I turned to sports and as it turns out, many others have as well. Some might call me posturing on my optimistic "Sports Can Save The World" soapbox, but, hey, why not? Influences of athletes, sports teams, sports programs, sports curriculum, sports initiatives have all positively impacted some pretty serious social issues like gender inequality, poverty, health & disease, co-existence. So why not counter-terrorism?
What is the counter-terrorist act that might mitigate this extreme violence? Could this be analogous, at some level to how gang violence in Los Angeles all but disappeared in the mid to late 90's after social programs that included sports were implemented? To some, this might sound too simple and to others, this might not compare. On a global level, I think it does make sense. Building support surrounding basic grass-roots efforts that involves schools, parents, communities to target at-risk men and women through sport can work and has worked.
On a small scale, 5 different sports teams based in Orlando swiftly mobilized to raise funds and awareness for the victims and families of the attacks. Orlando's professional teams – the Magic, Lions, Pride, Predators and Solar Bears — will be selling T-shirts bearing the "#OrlandoUnited" slogan. Net proceeds will go to the City of Orlando's OneOrlando Fund at OneOrlando.org.
Could you imagine a more well-thought-out plan to reach out to some of these men and women who feel that they need to join an extremist group just to feel like they belong somewhere? Sure, gun laws and anti-terrorist legislation will certainly help, but there is an obvious systemic issue of feeling left out, not part of a group. Have you ever met an athlete who said that they felt like they didn't feel like they were part of a community? Maybe this is where we might start.