When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.
In 2013, the Miami Dolphins were a PR nightmare because they had to face a lot of media scrutiny and bad press. At the time, the Dolphins were 4-4 and they found out that their offensive lineman Jonathan Martin wasn’t going to play football on the team anymore. The reason for his departure was kept under wraps, but later it was revealed that the situation was too much for Martin to bare. Former Dolphins, guard Richie Incognito, along with teammates and coaches, bullied Martin to the point he no longer wanted to come to work and play football, a game he had played since he was in high school. Incognito went as far as to taunt Martin by making sexually explicit remarks about his sister and mother, as well as throwing racial insults and other offensive comments Martin’s way.
The Dolphins eventually cut ties with Incognito, some of the coaches involved, other players who were a part of the scandal, and they traded Martin away to another locker room to get a fresh start. After the entire scandal, it gave life to a new idea, something that could uplift and unite teammates and athletes instead of tear them apart because of differences.
Welcome to the R.I.S.E. The Dolphins owner Stephen Ross created the Ross Initiative for Sports for Equality which is a non-profit organization that strives to advance race relations and drive social progress through sports and athletics.
Ross realizes that sports are one of the few places where there is true equality so he realizes that the problems that stem inside of the locker room such as discrimination and racism originate from the outside world. Being the innovative thinker that he is, Ross is using sports as the driving force to unite the country in order to create change.
Speaking with the media, Ross said this…“I looked at it [the Dolphins bullying scandal] and I saw it as a product of racism. Having come from Detroit, I’ve always been troubled by it….What I really want to see us doing ultimately is anytime there’s a live game of any type, any sport, there’s going to be a PSA that deals with this issue [racism]…We are not going to solve all the issues and they go away overnight, but we will have an impact.”
Some of the biggest names in sports and sports entities are also a part of RISE including, Stephen Curry, Larry Fitzgerald, Draymond Green, LeBron James, DeMarcus Ware, Justin Tuck, Ryan Tannehill, Roger Goodell, Rob Manfred, John Skipper and Adam Silver. In addition, Rise is also partnering with some of the biggest entities in sports including the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, NCAA, the University of Michigan, the Miami Dolphins, CBS Sports, NBC Sports and Turner Sports.
The plan of action that will be executed is a three-pronged attack.
1. Drive participation and accountability.
RISE has launched a number of public awareness campaigns including public service announcements and game day pledges in order to help advance our country’s race relations beyond sports.
2. Leverage voices that break through.
RISE has made partnerships with some of the biggest names in sports and in sports media in order to help break through to the common people within the community. Working with large media networks, sports professionals, educational institutions, sports leagues, and sports athletes, the message that RISE spreads will get passed along much quicker and with a louder impact.
3. Develop meaningful curricula and resources.
RISE will provide meaningful resources and will implement meaningful curricula aimed to help athletes, coaches, parents and professionals in order to help prevent racially damaging situations.
Golden State Warriors point guard, Stephen Curry said it best… “Anyone who loves sports knows that victory is unachievable without collaboration.”
Curry’s teammate Draymond Green also spoke eloquently on the situation saying this… “We are stronger when we stand together. RISE will help us to create a better future for the next generation. With the leadership behind RISE, and the numerous amounts of powerful entities, athletes, and educational institutions working behind it’s only a matter of time before we all will RISE up.
D’Joumbarey A. Moreau covers sports in Miami-Dade & Broward County. You can follow him on Twitter @DJoumbarey.