Mary E. Graham, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Sport Management, has been named Falk College associate dean of faculty affairs effective Jan. 2, 2024. This newly created leadership position reports to Falk College Dean Jeremy Jordan and is dedicated…
‘Know Your Why’: Sport Industry Executives Offer Students Valuable Advice During Falk College DEIA Lecture
At the start of his keynote address at the Oct. 12, Jonathan B. Wanderstock “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility in Sport” lecture, Kevin Clayton had one request for the large gathering of students in attendance in the College of Law’s Dineen Hall. “If nothing else, I want you to walk away with one new concept or tool that will help you on your journey to success,” said Clayton, senior vice president and head of social impact and equity for the Rock Entertainment Group, which includes the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
It’s safe to say that the students—and everyone else who attended—walked away with more than one concept to consider and a far better understanding of what it means for an organization to practice what it preaches when it comes to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA).
Clayton explained that his job title is his “what,” but it’s a person’s “why” that has more impact because your why is your purpose. For Clayton and the Cavaliers, their “why” became clear after George Floyd, a Black man, was murdered by a Minnesota police officer in May 2020.
“It wasn’t until post-George Floyd that we knew our why: connect the platform of sports to social justice,” Clayton said. “We’re the only city where three sports teams [the Cavaliers, the NFL’s Browns and MLB’s Guardians] have met every two weeks for the past three years around issues for social justice. We focus on law enforcement, education and voting/civic engagement, and for all three teams to be involved the impact is like 1+1+1 equals 100 and not 1+1+1 equals three.”
The “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility in Sport” lecture series is made possible through a generous gift to the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics’ Department of Sport Management from alumnus Jonathan B. Wanderstock, who earned his undergraduate degree in public communications and management from Syracuse University and is a philanthropic advisor for the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Campus.
The second annual event featuring Clayton and four other sports industry executives was hosted by the Department of Sport Management in conjunction with the Syracuse University College of Law’s Office of Career Services and Entertainment and Sports Law Society.
“The establishment of the Sport Management DEIA symposium by Jonathan Wanderstock has impacted the lives of hundreds of students across campus, not only those attending the symposium but from having our panelists attend eight classes as part of their supportive contributions,” said Michael Veley, director and chair of the Department of Sport Management.
“Our department stands in solidarity with our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility as we focus on areas of awareness, training and education,” Veley added. “We seek to use sport as a platform for social justice and social responsibility while encouraging open, honest dialog, including those related to racism, privilege and allyship.”
In addition to Clayton’s keynote address, the event featured a panel discussion moderated by Rockwell Brown Burton, associate dean for inclusivity, diversity, equity and accessibility at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. The panel included:
- Kwame Agyemang, George and Betty Blanda Endowed Professor in sport leadership and director of the Future of Sport Institute at the University of Kentucky;
- Dom Cambareri, volunteer executive director of Syracuse Challenger Baseball and founder and board member of the Carrier Park Field of Dreams All-Inclusive Sports Park;
- Leashia Lewis, assistant athletic director for diversity, equity and inclusion at Villanova University; and
- Amy Reed, head women’s basketball coach and diversity, equity and inclusion athletics director at Rochester Institute of Technology.
The panelists explained their roles in DEIA and social justice initiatives and answered questions from Brown Burton. After a Q&A with the students, Clayton and the panelists remained for one-on-one discussions with students.
In his address, Clayton said one of the ongoing issues with DEIA is that “we have not come to a universal understanding of what diversity is.” He said the Cavaliers and NBA have defined diversity as the “collective mixture of our fans, team members, properties, teams and partners characterized by our differences as well as our similarities.”
He said it’s possible to have diversity but not inclusion unless you create a trusting environment in which all are included, respected and supported. And equity, Clayton says, is building an “organizational landscape where all are empowered to be their authentic selves and contribute.”
At the end of the Q&A, Lewis—a Syracuse native who attended Villanova University—offered advice for students courtesy of a conversation she had with renowned political activist, author and University of California professor Angela Davis, who notably once said, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
“I asked her, ‘What hope do we have?’” Lewis said. “She said, ‘Ask the youth; they are the future.’”
“I came away from that meeting (with Davis) asking myself, ‘What am I going to do to help (students) be ready to fight for social justice?’” Lewis said. “So, I would say that we all have a role to play.”