Two days before Super Bowl 50, Wharton and the NFL, among others, will weigh in on race relations in sports.
On February 5, the Wharton Sports Business Initiative, Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality and SiriusXM will host an event entitled “Beyond the Game: Tackling Race” on Wharton San Francisco’s campus. SiriusXM Channel 111 Business Radio Powered by Wharton will broadcast the event live from 3-5 p.m. (PT) / 6-8 p.m. (ET).
The two-hour show will be divided into three panels, which will feature past and present NFL players, civil rights attorneys, a sports commentator and a professor. The panel's participants will represent a timeline of the intersection between race and sports, and how the latter has interacted with the former.
NFL Hall of Fame inductees Doug Williams, Harry Carson and Willie Lanier will participate in the first panel, in which they will describe “how they used their positions to advance race relations,” said Erin Pellegrino, director of events and programming for RISE.
These pioneering players will share the challenges they faced during their careers and help direct the conversation towards a topic on which the rest of the show will focus, which is “how can sports really address some other social issues in the country,” said Matthew Johnson, the program's producer.
The second panel will be a discussion about “how sports intersects with education, politics and law” and will be led by Cyrus Mehri and Jocelyn Benson, civil rights attorneys, and Dr. Harry Edwards, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley, Pellegrino said.
In the third panel, current NFL players Rashad Jennings of the New York Giants, Justin Tuck of the Oakland Raiders, Ben Watson of the New Orleans Saints and ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith will compare the race-based challenges that they have faced with those that the first panel's speakers faced while they were playing. This panel will also offer live audience members a chance to ask the panelists questions.
Christine Brennan, a sports columnist for USA Today and former president of the Association for Women in Sports Media, will moderate the program, and Wharton professors Kenneth Shropshire and Scott Rosner will host the program.
The program’s audience will include people as high-profile as the panelists. NFL players will be present along with an executive editor from Sports Illustrated, a CBS representative and several non-profit groups.
Local community leaders, grassroots initiative members and local coaches will also be in attendance. “We want to talk to the people that are on the ground working with these kids and dealing with these issues,” said Pellegrino. A goal of the panel is to help disseminate RISE’s educational objectives, which, noted Shropshire, involves “a curriculum for youth sports.”
The diverse audience can be attributed to the myriad partnerships of RISE, a non-profit founded in 2015 by Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins. RISE is committed to using sports to further race relations. RISE’s partners, which include the NBA, the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, NASCAR, USTA, PGA, Turner Sports and more, were encouraged to send out invitations to people who they thought might be interested in the event.
Shropshire is also on the board of RISE, the director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative, a co-host on the weekly Wharton Sports Business Show produced by SiriusXM and a consultant for the NFL. He helped plan the program by consolidating his and the different organizations’ interests in planning a meaningful, social-impact driven program related to “the biggest sporting event, one day event, at least, in the world."
The program will end with a glimpse towards the future of sports and race relations, and in particular, how each may positively affect the other. Shropshire hopes the panel, in discussing the types of campaigns and activities athletes and leagues have launched, will inspire people to use sports to level the playing field in race relations.
Ndidi Massay, executive director of RISE, noted the extraordinary nature of the panel.
“It’s really unique ... to have all these power players really passionate about moving the needle in race-relations," she said.
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