SALT LAKE CITY (October 25, 2019) – Joined by sports franchises, universities and athletes representing the state of Utah, the Salt Lake Bees today unveiled “Lead Together,” a long-term commitment to cultivating and promoting a community culture of inclusion and belonging.
“Lead Together” is introduced by a video, which will be played in sporting venues across the state, featuring Jazz players Bojan Bogdanović, Mike Conley, Rudy Gobert, Joe Ingles and Donovan Mitchell; Los Angeles Angels outfielder and former Salt Lake Bees player Mike Trout ; Real Salt Lake players Kyle Beckerman and Nedum Onuoha; Utah Royals and World Cup players Verónica Boquete, Kelley O’Hara, Christen Press and Becky Sauerbrunn; professional golfer Tony Finau; Olympic figure skater Nathan Chen; Utah State University head football coach Gary Andersen; Weber State University head football coach Jay Hill; University of Utah head football coach Kyle Whittingham; and Brigham Young University head football coach Kalani Sitake.
“We need to take responsibility when the words we hear cause pain, anger and divisiveness. Be mindful of what you say. If you hear something wrong, offensive or hateful, speak up,” said members of the “Lead Together” video, who pledged to stand against discrimination, inequality, injustice and racism.
“Everyone who walks through the doors of a sporting event, whether it’s a fan, staff member, coach, player, or guest, should expect courtesy, respect, common decency and civility,” said Gail Miller, owner and chairman of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies and the Utah Jazz. “We are united in our values, and we’re all joining together as citizens of our communities and the state of Utah to make a clear statement about who we are and what we’re about. Words matter. No one wins when respect goes away.”
“In sports, we’re always looking for ways to improve and get better, and this is no different. There have been too many negative instances in our community, and we all felt a shared responsibility to act. We hope ‘Lead Together’ sparks conversations in locker rooms, classrooms, board rooms and across kitchen tables about how we treat each other,” said Don Stirling, executive vice president of Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment. “Fundamentally, this isn’t about the volume of our cheering, but about the words we choose to say. The era of, ‘I didn’t know these words were hurtful,’ has passed.”
The Utah-based collaboration leans on the success of the “Take The Lead” initiative established by New England sports teams. The Jazz consulted with the Boston Red Sox, including President Sam Kennedy and Vice President of Fan Services and Entertainment Sarah McKenna, to learn best practices and help craft state-wide messaging as well as Tanisha M. Sullivan, president of the Boston branch of the NAACP, who played a key role in helping shape New England’s effort.
Locally, the Jazz enlisted assistance and input from diversity, inclusion and belonging thought-leaders across the state. Emma E. Houston, inclusion director for Salt Lake County’s Office of Diversity Affairs, said, “We appreciated the willingness of the Utah Jazz organization to not only seek advice but embrace it. Our conversations were frank, instructive and productive.”
“Respect is something to be shared and we are all responsible for our own words, deeds and actions. We should enthusiastically cheer for our favorite teams to win. However, words used to disparage the other team create a disrespectful environment that no one should be a part of. We all need to be courageous enough to speak up by taking the lead against disrespectful conduct,” Houston added.
The 60-second “Lead Together” video is available upon request at leadtogetherutah.org for sports organizations at all levels to download and feature at their games. In addition to professional and collegiate athletics, the Jazz have partnered with the Utah High School Activities Association and its 155 member schools to assist with promoting an inclusive, safe and friendly in-venue environment at their activities.
Junior Jazz, which serves more than 60,000 players across seven states, will also use “Lead Together” to add to the youth league’s message of sportsmanship, fair play and respect on the court.
“When we first started having conversations as a group across Utah sports, we realized that our experiences were all too common,” said Elaina Pappas, vice president of marketing and fan development for the Jazz and a former student-athlete. “We created ‘Lead Together’ after we looked in the mirror and realized we could all do better. We understand the platform we have and the power of joining together in a unified voice, and we hope this is just the beginning of an ongoing effort to re-examine the way we conduct ourselves in sporting venues and throughout society.”
A core principle of “Lead Together” is the development and introduction of programming that fosters a positive culture in the workplace and throughout the community. The Jazz are planning to conduct a series of “Let’s Talk” town hall events for community education and outreach on diversity, inclusion and belonging with actionable steps that can be taken by both individuals and organizations.
The Utah sports organizations and athletes will employ the hashtag #LeadTogether to continue the conversation on social media, where players, coaches and fans can show how they are promoting the values and mission of “Lead Together.”
For more information, please visit leadtogetherutah.org.