This week’s Super Bowl celebration in Miami, in addition to today’s game itself, is a reminder about how sport can bring transformative change. To be clear, the NFL faces plenty of challenges on and off the field, including the sore lack of diversity within its head coaching ranks.
But in addition to all the fan fests, parties and concerts, there is also solid community work happening in South Florida. One organization that has been on the ground during Super Bowl Week is RISE, a New York City-based nonprofit that seeks to harness the power of sport to boost diversity and inclusion while taking on prejudice and racism. Many of the young athletes participating in RISE’s programs across the U.S. could very well be the next LeBron James, or the late Kobe Bryant, of tomorrow: excelling at their sport while raising awareness of problems from poverty to racism.
Raising awareness isn’t enough, however; success on the social justice front means you’ve developed a plan that has a good chance to solve a problem. To that end, over the past few months in South Florida, RISE has been working with community organizations to launch a leadership program designed to support young sports leadership to find ways to bolster social justice and improve race relations. Meanwhile, RISE has been working with current NFL players in a drive to promote the organization’s programs while pursuing social justice.
RISE’s work comes at a time when professional athletes across all sports have felt more empowered to speak out on social issues over the last several years. “[NFL players] are feeling more comfortable that ‘Hey I can have both, I can do things great and well on the field and do some things off the field as well,’” said linebacker Brandon Copeland of the New York Jets when discussing his fellow athletes’ attitude on a RISE podcast yesterday. “And it takes some barriers being broken; it takes some people showing how to do it at a high level.”
Copeland noted how many athletes starring on the court, field or pitch today want to achieve more than just being the best in their sport but leveraging their status to change society for the better: “It’s an amazing time. You see guys taking chances, taking risks and also using their platform.”
Image credit: Lynne Filderman
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He's based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.