James Collins ( Photo @Clinton Global Initiative )

Jason Collins, Goodwill Ambassador, and a former NBA basketball star joins the panel: Sports as a Catalyst for Development and Integration, at the Annual Meeting of Global Clinton Initiative in New York.

Nelson Mandela once said, “Sports has the power to change the world…It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand..”

In that spirit, leaders from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors gathered at the Annual Meeting of the Global Clinton Initiative to discuss how sports programs can serve as valuable tools for development, education, health, and the integration of youth and vulnerable populations.

Everyone Can Play

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Issues concerning the LGBT community are gaining prominence in sports. Jason Collins, a Goodwill Ambassador and a former NBA player, at the Annual Meeting of the Global Clinton Initiative, opened up about his experience of being the first active male athlete in U.S. professional team sports to come out openly as a gay sportsman. In 2013, he felt that for his happiness in life, he wanted to come out. He tried to control his story and tell it on his terms.

“I reached the point in my private life when I wanted to come out and say I was gay.  I was tired of going through different cities telling this lie of having a girlfriend who did not exist”, said Collins.

After the season was over in 2013, he made a decision to come out and tell his story, and the reaction to his words was surreal at the time – “I was getting calls from Oprah and President Obama, pretty surreal.” 

The obstacles to playing sports are even more significant for those with disabilities, girls and women, and the LGBT community. In a conversation he was having with Joe Biden, he explained that when you put LGBT rights in the context of sports, it is easier for men to talk about their issues.

“There is still a lot of homophobia in male sports. I see myself as acting as a ‘possibility model’ for young kids, so that they know that that it is possible to play sports and be gay”, Jason Collins said.

These days, we see how the sport has evolved in raising awareness to racial and human rights issues. We have seen pro players speaking out about social issues in a way that we have not seen in a long time. We have athletes trying to connect with their communities. What are the business implications, however, for athletes speaking the way they have been talking lately?

Casey Wasserman, Chairman, and CEO of Wasserman and Chairman said: ”The decision to openly engage in social issues should not be a business decision, it should be a personal decision. Athletes should use their platforms to voice their opinions.  Engagement and belief and concern of the athletes should not be limited to social media.”

Wasserman concluded with the words of encouragement for athletes to engage in social issues thoroughly and pursue authenticity.    

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Ava DeSantis

Ava DeSantis is Gen Z Voice at The Pavlovic Today. She has a background in political science and history at George Washington University.    

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