Pac-12 and its student-athletes work with RISE to promote unity

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Members of the Pac-12 Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) participate in a RISE workshop during the committee’s spring 2017 meeting in San Francisco.

Aug. 8, 2017

By Bryan Matecun

RISE has partnered with the Pac-12 Conference and its student-athletes since 2016 to help unite athletes and fans from diverse backgrounds through events and training.

RISE presented workshops at the fall 2016 and spring 2017 meetings of the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) in San Francisco. Two representatives from each Pac-12 school participated in RISE activities about identity, diversity, implicit bias and perspective taking at the workshops.

RISE also presented its It Takes All Colors fan activation booth at the Pac-12 Football Championship Game in Santa Clara, California; the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament in Las Vegas; Pac-12 Wrestling Championship and Gymnastics Championship, both in Stanford, California; and a baseball game between the University of Southern California and University of California, Berkeley.

Danette Leighton, Pac-12 chief marketing officer, said the conference’s partnership with RISE stemmed from common values.

“Our relationship with RISE formed because of our longstanding commitment to inclusion and fairness,” Leighton said. “We take it seriously in the Pac-12; that’s who we are. We recognize the power that our student-athletes can have on the subject matter.”

The work of the Pac-12 SAAC is one example of the power that student-athletes have. The committee’s goal is to bring Pac-12 student-athletes together to promote collaboration and unity. It consists of two student-athletes (one male, one female) from each Pac-12 school chosen by school administrators. Each Pac-12 campus also has its own SAAC group, which serves as a connector between student-athletes and their administrators. Members of the Pac-12 SAAC are generally leaders in their campus committees, as well.

The Pac-12 SAAC meets each semester and, in addition to conducting other business, participates in a social outreach project. Committee members have worked closely with each other and RISE, allowing them to meet new people and spread a positive message.

“It was great that we got to interact with members from each school,” said Jeannez Daniel, a committee representative who plays tennis for the University of Colorado. “I was the only tennis player present, so I got to meet people who played other sports.”

Maggie Scott, a committee representative who plays volleyball for the University of Oregon, added that the events have given her the opportunity to interact with people from diverse backgrounds with diverse ideas.

“I was surprised at how open everyone became once we started talking,” Scott said.

The comfort the student-athletes felt around each other has made it easier for them to talk about uncomfortable topics.

“Race is a topic that often gets overlooked because people aren’t really comfortable talking about it,” Daniel said. “When more people get exposed to something they’re uncomfortable with, it opens up an opportunity for learning.”

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Members of the Pac-12 Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) visit RISE’s It Takes All Colors fan activation booth at a University of Southern California vs. University of California, Berkeley baseball game in April 2017.

After the spring workshop, committee members helped to spread awareness of RISE’s mission at the University of Southern California vs. University of California, Berkeley, baseball game.

“Having SAAC representatives attend the event at the Cal baseball game was a valuable experience,” Leighton said. “It was great to provide our leaders on campus with an educational opportunity and a powerful message for them to share.”

Committee members worked to get as many people as they could to take RISE’s pledge to show commitment to ending racism.

“My favorite part was interacting with other people at the baseball game,” Daniel said. “A lot of people had no idea what RISE was or what it stood for. Helping others take the pledge was fun.”

She said this event reinforced the idea that sports can be used to address serious issues.

“The main takeaway for me was that sports are an excellent way to help with diversity and equality throughout all races,” Daniel said. “There is such a diverse community within sports, and sports can be used to spread a positive message.”

Scott said she has been able to use what she has learned from RISE outside of RISE events.

“Learning about diversity, equality, social norms and stereotypes was really powerful,” Scott said. “It’s something that I’ve definitely brought back to campus with me.”

Leighton said she is proud of Pac-12 universities and student-athletes for making diversity and equality a priority.

“Seeing Pac-12 student-athletes talk about their experiences demonstrated the power of sports and their ability to make change.”

Bryan Matecun is a summer 2017 intern for communications and marketing in RISE’s Midwest office in Detroit.