Hi everybody, I’m Brian Clapp Director of Content for WorkinSports.com and this is the Work in Sports podcast…
Sports, either playing or watching, in theory, is a release, a chance to tune out the external stressors and enjoy an art form not on canvas with oils and acrylics, but on the turf with muscles and mind power.
My career has embodied this to a tee.
I thought about working in hard news, but the constant stress of politics and death and fires and traffic and tragedy and peril – was too much for me. Sports was light. A passion play that I could engage my mind into the strategy, but stay loose and separate from the constant constriction of life.
But this is a naïve viewpoint because sports isn’t separate from society, quite the opposite. Sports is a microcosm for society, mirroring the way it operates and often dealing with large-scale issues before they become large scale. Call sports a precursor to global events, almost a trial society where issues are played out int real-time, then graduated to the society at large.
The sports world is complete with societies conflicts, assets, and defects.
Our escape world is not bereft of greed, corruption, inequality or entitlement. Our personal utopia isn’t all upside, it’s flawed and broken just like the rest of the world.
In sports, we deal with real-life issues like Ray Rice and Kareem Hunt’s issues with abuse, Tonya Harding conspiring to assault a competitor, Pete Rose gambling.
We deal with people ruined by drugs or alcohol like Roy Tarpley, Josh Gordon, Mickey Mantle, and Lance Armstrong
We talk about social justice issues in the context of Colin Kaepernick, but the use of sports as a platform for social justice started decades ago.
Why does sports act as a microcosm of our world? Because it is the ultimate meritocracy.
Elite athletes are put into the position to thrive based purely on their skills and ability, not their color or gender. If they stink they get cut, if they thrive and achieve and lead they get signed to massive contracts.
When you have a meritocracy it almost forces diversity, because different people in different sports succeed in different ways. There is *some* balance.
Alas, not all is rosy. The workplace in sports is just like the workplace in every other business in the world – there are struggles to enforce diversity and inclusion. Teams have had massive problems with these tenets. Google stories on the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks and your jaw could drop – they are far from the only two.
This issue is hot. It’s important, and it deserves constant conversation and more importantly action. There are leaders in the field of Diversity and Inclusion as it relates to sports, none more impressive than today’s guest – Vincent Pierson, Director of Diversity and Inclusion for all of Minor League Baseball.
Let’s get to it – here’s Vincent Pierson.
1: Before we get into the larger and extremely important issue of diversity and inclusion in sports, let’s talk a little about you. For undergrad you attended Virginia State, graduating in 2011 – at this point did you have the intention to work in sports or was that something that developed over your college experience?
3: While getting your Masters you were a graduate assistant in the Institute for Diversity and Ethics at UCF – what was that experience like?
4: Was that experience the launching point for your desire to work on the diversity and inclusion side of sports – or was there some other moment either in your life or the global news, that helped inspire this career direction?
5: I find the subject of diversity and inclusion in sports fascinating – the “how” behind it all is such a dense conversation. Let’s start with that part, the conversation.
I’m going to be blunt here — the common refrain you hear from those of us that are not diverse, I’m a white 44-year-old male, is that it means so much just to be having the conversation about the issues. But I’ll be honest I hear that and bristle – like, do we honestly have that low of a bar that just talking about these huge issues that affect millions of people is the goal?
It seems like we should be aiming higher than just patting ourselves on the back for allowing the discussion, right?
6: Let’s talk about your specific role as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion for Minor league Baseball – big question here – how do you go about effecting change in Minor League baseball? What does that process look like?
7: With 256 Minor League baseball teams it must be near impossible to be truly hands-on – are you more focused on developing the tools and processes to make diversity and inclusion just a normal part of team operations? Or are you on the road every single day of the year?
8: In your four-plus years in Minor league baseball, how would you quantify or evaluate the change your group has been able to make?
9: On a broader scale in sports – How important is it for athletes to use their platform and the power of their reach to discuss topics like social justice and inclusion?
10: Just a few years back the Atlanta Hawks were embroiled in controversy when their then GM Danny Ferry was connected to scouting reports on Luol Deng that were inappropriate and insensitive, then their owner self-reported on himself sending out a racist email – this franchise was NOT the model for tolerance.
Fast forward a few years and the Hawks just received an NBA award for Inclusion leadership – this is a long way of asking you about change and how it happens. How do organizations and leagues make the dramatic changes necessary to improve their operation, like the Hawks?
11: I know it’s impossible to predict, but where do you think we are with diversity and inclusion in sports looking down the road 5-10 years?
12: Is this a field you believe will continue to grow across all sports teams and leagues, and if so how do young people interested in the movement get more involved?
Listen to the Work in Sports podcast episode 150 with Vincent Pierson, Director of Diversity and Inclusion for Minor League Baseball to hear all the answers to these questions.