By: Neill Woelk, Contributing Editor
Release: January 29, 2018
BOULDER — To varying degrees, sports and sports celebrities have for years played a role in the national discussion of societal issues.
But in recent years the role of sports figures who have become directly involved in such issues has increased dramatically. The decision by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick to kneel during the national anthem is the most publicized, but there have been plenty of other examples of sports figures making headlines by taking a stance on a variety of topics.
Such instances are not going to go away— rather, they are expected to increase in frequency, with more sports figures choosing to take a stand on issues.
That increase in dialogue is one of the driving forces behind the University of Colorado Athletic Department and Recreation Services collaborating to co-host the first Inclusive Sports Summit on Feb. 14-15. Both CU Athletics and the CU Recreation Services have been engaged in Diversity and Inclusive Excellence work in their departments.
"It's something we believe is very important in our climate right now," said associate director for academics and development Medford Moorer, one of the event directors. "It's always been something that's been out there — sports, with the idea of tagging along social justice, or taking on a cause or responsibility for different things that are going on within our country or around the world."
Some causes, Moorer noted, are widely accepted and praised by the public. Others, not so much.
"One thing that easily comes out is if there's a cause — say the "It's On Us" campaign," Moorer said. "The NFL, the NBA and other organizations have taken on that particular cause. We are all socially responsible for supporting these individuals who are going through a crisis or an unjust situation in their lives."
But other causes create more controversy — and it is those events, Moorer said, that bring to focus the importance of the convergence of sports and society.
"Take Colin Kaepernick and the military, the kneeling during the national anthem and those events," Moorer said. "It brings out a heightened awareness of how important sports figures are and how important sport itself is within our society."
ISS 2018 will host five modules with a variety of panel discussions and lectures, all open and free to the public. The modules will cover social justice, LGBTQ, race and ethnicity, health and wellness, and careers in sport.
All, Moorer said, have the common thread of inclusivity and access. "As our campus has had discussions about access and being inclusive, CU Athletics and the CU Recreation Services came together to co-host the Inclusive Sports Summit," Moorer said. "The goal is to provide opportunities for individuals around the community to participate in, open conversations about being inclusive through sport. That's how we came up with the different modules, by focusing on the issues that are present in our society and sports today.
Former Colorado and pro football player Solomon Wilcots, now a national television analyst and broadcaster, will help introduce one of the modules at the opening session as well as lead a panel dialogue. Wilcots and NFL reporter Jim Trotter (ESPN and Sports Illustrated) will host a discussion on social justice within sport, focusing on Kaepernick and the movement that followed his actions.
Other panel and discussion leaders will include UNLV professor Dr. Nancy Lough, who will talk about women in sport and their access to leadership roles; Nevin Caple of LGBT SportSafe, who will discuss LBGTQ issues and how coaches and administrators can ensure a safe environment in their departments; and CU ethnic studies professor Nicholas Villanueva will discuss perceptions and ideologies still prevalent in sports and society today. The ISS will host other national and local organizations such as the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equity (RISE), You Can Play, Paradox Sports, Adaptive Rock Climbing Organization, and African American Outdoors.
Also offered will be a panel discussion with former and current CU student-athletes, including Charles Johnson and Daniel Graham, with attendees having the opportunity to ask questions and hear athletes discuss what their experience were and what misconceptions they may have encountered during their careers.
"The Inclusive Sport Summit will use the platform of sport to dialogue on social justice issues," said Nicole LaRocque, Associate Director Recreation Programs. "Our goal is to have thought provoking conversation that fosters growth and development. We want people to come to the summit excited to learn and interact, then walk away with opportunities for valuable reflection that will hopefully lead to positive application. I like to think of ISS as a form of activism."
ISS 2018 takes place in the Dal Ward Touchdown Club and in the CU Student Recreation Center. It is free and open to the public. A schedule is available at http://cubuffs.com/iss18.