What To Do if Your Organization is Staying Silent Through Protests – Work In Sports Podcast

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp VP of Content and Engaged Learning at WorkInSports.com and this is the Work In Sports podcast.

I have some pretty big news before we get into today’s sports industry question — 

We have completely overhauled our site WorkInSports.com!

Background — since 1999 we’ve been the leader for jobs in the sports industry, but as times change we have to be agile and adjust our approach.  That’s one of the benefits of being a small, family-run, company – we can make decisions and act on them quickly, not a lot of red tape. 

You may not know this – but WorkInSports is 10 people. That’s right, we’re not some huge media conglomerate, we are 10 scrappy people trying to change sports employment.

Another cool stat about our business — we added Jesus Guzman last year at this time to our staff as a front end developer, Jesus is awesome and has been instrumental in this relaunch, but my point for bringing this up… of the ten people on staff, Jesus is the rookie with 1 year on the WIS team. 

I am the next newest employee and I’ve been here for seven years. The rest of the staff has been with Work In Sports for 14 years plus. That is unheard of! But again, good people, good environment, good products… people stick around.

Ok, so what is the big news — I’ll get off my tangent and get back to the news —  we set out with a mission to be less of a list of jobs and more of an interaction hub between sports employers and sports job seekers – more connectivity, more interaction. 

And we are there. 

For a while, free members will still see the old site. All paid members and employers will see the new product. 

Couple of highlights to feature:

  • Our matching technology is way ramped up – upload resume. 
  • When we post new jobs, active search through the database
  • When you see a job you like, give it a thumbs up 
  • Sports select

For employers, we have a ton of new tools — all geared toward helping you find the right candidates efficiently. No more pushing through 1,000 resumes of unqualified people. We have THE sports resumes, and when you post a job with us, we will actively match your needed skills against our database of candidates.

There are many other tools for employers we have developed I won’t get into them all here. But if you are an employer and want a new way to find the most talented people for your roles — reach out to me, and we’ll schedule a demo of the new products — bclappworkinsports.com.

We’re excited — and we are in active beta right now, so if you play around and have feedback – share it with us so s we can continually improve. 

And remember a premium membership with WorkInSports.com is more valuable than ever… and it keeps me employed! So check it out!

Ok, on to today’s sports career-focused question…  

“Hey Brian, this is William from Chicago, I know yours is not a political podcast but I respect your opinion and wanted to talk about what is currently happening in the world today. The company I work for in the sports industry, who I love to work for, has been completely silent about the George Floyd murder, the protests and the support of the black community — this really, really bothers me. But I don’t know what to do about it. Any ideas how I can speak up respectfully, and not lose my job?”

William – this is an intense question and I want to give it the respect it deserves. 

First I’d like to start with a story about voice. 

Last year in January  interviewed Vincent Pierson who at the time was the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for Minor League Baseball. It is one of my favorite podcasts to date, and Vincent and I have remained in touch afterward. He’s incredible. 

The FIELD program was an initiative that Vincent was highly involved in, and showed great progress toward diversity and inclusion for Minor League Baseball. I’ll read directly from their site to explain what the FIELD program is: 

Minor League Baseball’s ‘Fostering Inclusion through Education and Leadership Development’ (FIELD) Program was created under the MiLB Diversity Initiative as a way to engage the next generation of diverse leaders in sports business. The FIELD Program combines educational and leadership development with skill specific training, access to a vast network of sports professionals, and industry knowledge and exposure to create a unique experience for selected participants. This week-long program, hosted in the sunshine state, introduces selected participants to the game and business of professional baseball in preparation for a career within the industry.

 Very cool program — good for Minor League Baseball. BUT, when the protests started and there was a clear racial issue happening in America, Minor League Baseball was silent. 

It’s great to have a program like FIELD, but it has to be part of your values as an organization, not just a 1 week look good on paper program. 

Now we get to the good part — people noticed that MiLB was very silent. Specifically the participants in the FIELD program. 

Think about how this must feel to them? They participate in this great program, and then when we hit a racial tipping point in our country, not a peep.

Well, the 23 members of the 2019 FIELD cohort banded together to do something about the silence. They released a statement together. 

I’ll read the first paragraph, but encourage you to read the whole statement which i will post in the show notes.

As alumni of Minor League Baseball’s FIELD program we are disheartened and discouraged. Minor League Baseball prides itself on diversity and inclusion initiatives, including recruiting diverse talent, like us, to join the #FIELDFamily and encouraging people of color to work in baseball. MILB’s silence on social injustice, police brutality, and solidarity with the #BlackLivesMatter Movement is deafening. FIELD program statement

They go on to collectively state facts, about how Minor League Baseball needs to do more, rather than just talk a good game. 

For example:

  • Out of 160 teams across 42 states, only one team is led by a Black general manager
  • During the 2019 Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego, no organizational awards were given to a black man or woman.
  • The frequent usage of Jackie Robinson’s name and likeness, despite limited concrete action, to address racial inequity, police brutality in MiLB communities or the disparity of black professionals in baseball.

Again the statement continues — but I have a point here. Their statement was articulate well thought out, researched and pointed.

They released it on Thursday at around 3:00 pm. By 4:01 pm Minor League Baseball made a statement. 

By using their voice the members of the FIELD program forced response and hopefully change. That is something to admire. 

My recommendation — connect with Vincent Pierson on LinkedIn. He is one of the smartest and compassionate people I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with. Then find that statement from the FIELD participants, I will post it on our site, but you can find it elsewhere…it’s on Vincent’s feed as well. 

And then connect with these young professionals. It’s one thing to like, share or comment, and quite another to help them build their industry network by connecting with them. Employers who listen to this show, I’m looking at you. And all the people who are part of our Privat Facebook group — you know I am looking at you. Connect with these young professionals, show them you care, and offer to help them grow their network by including you in it. 

That is point #1 — there is strength in numbers, so if your company is staying silent and this makes you mad. Band together, and start a dialogue. Explain your frustration articulately with the decision-makers. 

Couple of other ideas. 

I was listening in to my wife’s company having a town hall session on this very subject — and one of the Black employees spoke up, and he was brilliant. He shared some stories, gave some perspective. Talked about how he is a college-educated successful black man but he has been pulled over for doing nothing at least a dozen times. 

You could see the reaction of the other people in my wife’s company. They all look stunned as if police brutality and social injustice only happen to other black people, not our guys and gals. 

This awareness is key. The pervasiveness of the problem is important to show. 

But Id also like to stress, this young black professional also told everyone something very powerful, he said don’t pity me, don’t walk on eggshells around me, don’t treat me differently because you aren’t sure how to approach me right now. Engage, listen with an open heart, and be willing to change. 

Amazing. Have conversations on all levels. Engage and listen.

Point #3 – look for allies. The burden for this conversation should not just fall on the black employees. It should not be on the black employees to band together and charge into the president’s office. It should be on a diverse coalition of people who care – and I guarantee there are a lot of those people at your organization. 

Final point — be prepared for the conversation. It is not enough to speak with emotion, or frustration, if you are going to address this problem, you need research, a plan, and expectations for the decision-makers. 

You have to be prepared for them to come back at you with – “Ok, so what should we do?” flipping the burden back on you. You better be ready for this, or else they will dismiss you. 

Look this isn’t easy – there is a risk. I’d love to pretend there isn’t but there is. I doubt Colin Kaepernick thought he’d never play in the NFL again. But i also believe this was a sacrifice he looks back on without any regret.

Black employees have long been forced to make the sacrifice to push for more than just equality, for equity and justice — it’s time for the white employees to put some effort into the fight and assume some of the risks. 

Remember, there is strength in numbers. 

Heavy topic. I won’t avoid it. 

Stay safe out there – protest in peace –  and keep your mask on.

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the sports media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

Recently, Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, do it.

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