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April 12, 2020

Without Games, Sports still have Power

By Scott Koenning and Andrew Mac Intosh, Ph.D.

Even in the midst of a global pandemic, sports continue to play a vital role in inspiring change and social action.

Recognizing the gravity of COVID-19, and in an effort to protect its players, staff and fans, the NBA suspended its season on March 11. In the coming days, other professional sports leagues followed suit. Their serious action to address the pandemic took over the headlines and impacted U.S. consciousness and perspective related to the virus.

The NBA suspended its season eight days before the country's first statewide "stay-at-home" order was issued by the State of California and five days before the White House introduced its first national social distancing guidelines on March 16. Today, 42 states have issued statewide "stay-at-home" orders and national social distancing guidelines have been expanded and extended.

Sports leagues and athletes have been leading voices and influencers supporting the fight against COVID-19. Through financial contributions, public statements and more, athletes and executives are utilizing sports as a vehicle for change and solidarity in the collective struggle with this crisis.

Many athletes like Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Sydney Wiese, and Serena Williams have shared details of their struggles with the virus and its societal impact. Karl-Anthony Towns also revealed his personal challenges with the virus, and tragically would later lose his mother to COVID-19.

Russell Wilson and Ciara, JJ Watt and Kealia Ohai and Drew Brees are only a few examples of those in the sports world combining to raise millions of dollars for causes related to the crisis. The USTA's Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York, the site of the US Open, has been transformed into a temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients, as well as a commissary for meal packages for those in need.

The power of these sports voices and actions provides an example of how the platform of sports can be utilized to educate and assist society.

At RISE, we hold the fundamental belief that sports are not only a powerful unifier but also a vehicle for social change. Sports have long made a significant impact on society beyond the confines of the field of play. They can be a powerful unifying force bridging racial and cultural divides. Sports have the potential to be used as a vehicle to educate about differences and a means to expose people to greater gender and racial equity. Playing and learning the games we love can become an effective tool for teaching skills, such as conflict resolution and leadership, and highlighting new perspectives. Furthermore, sports showcase diverse role models for younger athletes and fans.

The universal appeal of sports has provided a mechanism to address current societal issues, showcase unity and provide hope. The RISE Road to Progress displayed above highlights a few of these iconic moments.

Which of these moments speak most to you? Share and tag us @RISEtoWIN with the #LearnToRISE.

Scott Koenning is RISE's Director, Programs, and Dr. Andrew Mac Intosh is RISE's Vice President, Curriculum.

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