Action. Urgent action.
Either in one or two words, the outcome of the SIGA GRID Forum is the same: immediate action is needed to promote the building of Sport for all, ensuring it is a safe space for athletes, fans, and all other stakeholders.
Gender, Race, Inclusion and Diversity issues are on top of the SIGA agenda, as ending any kind of discrimination is crucial to achieve the highest levels of Good Governance.
More than 15 speakers joined SIGA for the 2-hour event held within #SoccerexAmericas, organised by SIGA and its’ new member Access Earth.
Each delivered a specific message, all having in common the same key tone: there is no valid reason for organisations and individuals to ignore the discrimination threats facing the industry.
Brian Lewis, president of the Trinidad & Tobago National Olympic Committee and CANOC, also Chair of SIGA GRID Standing Committee opened the event, emphasizing the importance of people to stand up for what is right:
“We cannot underestimate the importance of the SIGA GRID Forum. Regarding lack of Inclusion, of Diversity and Equality, silence is complicity. We have to take action now.” You cannot diminish the experience of people who are being marginalised. You can’t intimidate them into agreeing with those who wish to move away from uncomfortable conversations about discrimination, racism, sexism, ableism. We need action. Words have power, and if we want to talk about discrimination people have to be exceptional, because the playing field is not levelled. Oppression starts in offices, clubs and organisations. We can’t achieve anything if we give up. The times will change, and people must not be divided”.
Luticha Andre Doucette, Award-Winning, Disability Justice Expert & Owner of Catalyst Consulting, joined the discussion with an inspiring video message, focusing on a variety of issues, including her personal experience, and the need to provide transport for disabled people willing to do Sport.
Watch her message here.
Keith Jones, President, Soul’Touchin Experiences, Emmy Award Winning Music & Lyricist, also recorded a message that was played right after Luticha’s. “It is important to understand integrity is key; that Diversity, inclusion and gender equity movies society forward. That’s why SIGA and SIGA GRID work is so important. If we work together, the world will be a better place.”
Check his message:
“Building The Dream Team: Patience May Be A Virtue, But We Don’t Have Time To Waste”. The first panel of the day was moderated by Paul Nicholson, CEO & Editor-in-Chief, Inside World Football, and had the participation of Karin Korb, 2-time Paralympian, Member, SIGA Council, and SIGA GRID Standing Committee; Erika LeFlore, Associate Athletic Director, Internal Operations & Senior Woman Administrator, Florida Memorial University; Matt McCann, CEO & co-founder, Access Earth, and Daniela Bas, Director, Division for Inclusive Social Development, DESA, United Nations.
Matt McCann insights were focused on accessibility, the main area of action for Access Earth: “Diversity and inclusion are incredibly important, not only for 1 billion people in the world who have disabilities but as an opportunity for stadiums to become accessible champions within their own communities. Join us to make the future of football and Sport accessible for everyone”.
Erika LeFlore added that “Gender, Race, Inclusion, and Diversity is an important topic in all areas of sport”, and said she is “looking forward to seeing the progress everyone will make in the near future”.
Last-minute issues prevented Daniela Bas from joining the panel in-person. Still, in a powerful video message, she expressed her thoughts on the matter:
“I want to commend SIGA for advancing Inclusion and Diversity in Sport essential. Sport and physical activity are key tools to promote resilience, inclusion, equity, and to leave no one behind. The UN shares your commitment to improve people’s lives, and achieve a better, more equitable, sustainable world”.
Watch her message:
The second panel of the day, moderated by Ulysses Smith, Senior Adviser, ESG, Debevoise & Plimpton; Member, Advisory Board, SIGA AMERICA, focused on “Walking the Talk! Moving from words to action”.
Jamil Northcutt, Senior Vice-President, Player and Competition Relations, Major League Soccer and Soccer United Marketing; Ju’Riese Colón, Deputy-Char, SIGA GRID Standing Committee, CEO, Safesport USA; and Kay Rawlins, Founder & Senior Vice President of Community Relations, Orlando City Foundation, and Renae Myles Payne, Senior Associate AD / Administration & Chief Diversity Officer, Miami Hurricanes Athletics joined for live debate.
Ju’Riese Colón explained that in her view “advancing and addressing Gender, Race, Diversity & Inclusion across sport, in a truly meaningful way, is critical to an athlete’s safety and well being”. After all, she added: “not only does it create level playing fields for all and provide for spaces that are welcoming so players can thrive, but it also makes Sport safer, more accessible, engaging, and fun – especially for youth. The intersection creates environments that make athletes want to play and stay in sport”.
Kay Rawlins started by mentioning the 6-year fight for equality that the USWNT had with US soccer, finally resulting in a new agreement in February. She then moved into Orlando Pride and Orlando City practices: “As a Club, we have installed mini-pitches and free programs in some of the most underserved communities, providing access to the beautiful game. We also support organisations providing sporting opportunities for young athletes with disabilities and this year, will be the hosts of the opening ceremony of the US Special Olympics Games. We need to be paying attention to our hiring practices to ensure that we are reaping the rewards of a diverse staff team. The Institute for Sports and Social Justice provides a race and gender scorecard every year for all the major leagues – NBA, NFL, NHL and MLS – which helps hold them accountable. We need to listen and respond to the needs of our staff and players. For example, we recently issued a statement against legislation being introduced in Florida targeting and discriminating against our LGBTQ+ Community. Our stadium has 49 rainbow seats in one of the stands, a sign of our commitment to our community and to show that all are welcome”.
Katie Simmonds, SIGA’s Global COO and Managing Director, #SIGAWomen, and Taylor Green, SIGA Youth Council Chair, and member, SIGA GRID Standing Committee, had the responsibility to deliver the closing remarks.
Taylor expressed she wanted to “reiterate the themes mentioned by other panellists and moderators”, “while emphasizing SIGA’s steps in moving diversity equity Inclusion Justice belonging and access from theory to practice”. She shared a “joint statement crafted by the GRID Committee”, and expressed a wish: “My main hope for the Forum is to ensure the discourse spreads far and wide, resulting in action.”
To close the session, Franco Frattini, SIGA Chair, shared a video message, in which he expressed the GRID FORUM touched the “core business” of SIGA, at the heart. “We want to pursue legality, while firmly respecting the principles of good governance, gender equity, diversity and inclusion”, he said, ending his speech with a word of support to the Ukrainian people, and all that “suffer and have been separated from their families”.
Watch the full message below