Sport and Social Change

Hey Sports Media: Please Check Your Facts (Athletes, Too!)

The last few days of coverage around the death and tragedy of Will Smith have brought up a lot of emotions from players, the city of New Orleans and the national media. Let me say that I am glad these issues around violence are getting attention, incredibly sad for the reason. But, one thing that I am discouraged by is that some of the narrative is just plain FALSE and VERY FALSE.

The lack of fact-checking and really doing deep-down research on what you're reporting or even what your interviewees are speaking is alarming and I'm not a trained journalist. I am 100% behind athletes being advocates for causes, but if you are going to use your platform to stand up for something, go on several national media outlets, then do your homework please. At least for the sake of getting the so-desperately-needed attention around social issues.

Here's what happened, and let me preface this by saying that I do not know Tyrann Mathieu personally, but he seems like a wonderful young man and at the core, I am so glad he is speaking out and mad as hell about the murder of former New Orleans Saint (and a former client of mine) Will Smith.

Tyrann went on a national radio show with Mike Hill and Kirk Morrison to talk about Will, New Orleans and his disgust over the violence in New Orleans. All totally understandable. HERE is the link to the interview if you want to catch it. It was emotional and compelling and wonderful and so much of what he was saying was true with the uptick in crime and the city at the brink of a racial and class divide with some numbers worse than pre-Katrina. 

Except he was not factually correct when he mentioned that New Orleans isn't doing anything to help the youth of the community. And my head almost exploded because he missed a huge opportunity to create awareness and support for some very important social programs going on. They are not perfect, but there is a HUGE effort going on that's getting no attention.

So here they are:

NOLA for Life - the city's 36 initiative comprehensive program to reduce crime and homicide. One of the initiatives is called Midnight Basketball where they provide basketball leagues between 8pm to 12am for young men in underprivileged areas around NOLA (I did a short film about I know all about it).

LAUREUS USA + Mercedes Benz - has a $10M investment in youth sports programs in NOLA that gets no coverage at all. They have a #SportForGood weekend every year around the NFL opening weekend

Please, if you are going to cover and advocate for social issues in sports using sports media, platforms, athlete voices and bringing subjects to the forefront of conversation, make sure you have your facts straight so you can truly create social change and have a strong call-to-action.

Mike Hill asked "what can we do?" Tyrann didn't have answer, but if he just knew about these programs, he could have so easily said: "Get out there and support these organizations. Let everyone you know about them and bring more attention to help our city and children so these tragedies don't happen."



Standing on the High School Football Sidelines of Racial Co-Existence & Gender Equality

When I was a little girl, my Dad was a head high school football coach at Grant High School in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. He would bring me to practice a lot during the Summer time and have me on the sidelines at Friday night home games. I wasn't exactly the little girl from "Remember the Titans" but let's just say that I never had a hard time holding my own among the men who seemed to be giants on the field.

Grant was a school that bused in kids from other parts of Los Angeles at that time. The team had boys from every racial background that was the melting-pot mix that made up LA back then and I never really noticed well since I was 5-years old and all and usually in pig-tails.

Why is this important now and why am I starting my first blog with this story?

Now that I have spent the past 15 years working in the sports industry in various positions as it relates to athlete representation and advocacy, I look back and realize that this experience as a little girl was one that not only shaped my thoughts on how I felt more than comfortable in a "big-man's world" but how I looked at everyone as equal no matter the racial background. And this became the norm to me all through the exposure of a very mixed race high school football team, seeing how they all treated one another like true teammates and brothers. 

My Dad resigned as a coach around 1989 or so and has since been an incredibly successful "Dr. Phil-type" psychologist. I have come back around to those memories a lot recently thinking about why there isn't more attention paid to using sports as a social change tool.

I'm also asked quite often if I've ever felt uncomfortable being the only woman in a room or meeting. My answer is: NOT ONCE have I ever felt uncomfortable, quite the opposite actually. Through these experiences as a little one, not only have I always felt included as a woman but I also never thought negatively about other races and cultural groups.

Funny how my father's decision to just "casually" put me on the sidelines of a high school football team led to a difference of ideologies than what's portrayed in the media. To this day, whenever I stand on a football field, I think about all of those young men who were all part of the same team.