Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) opens Florida office

October 18, 2017

Second regional office to serve 14 Southern states

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), headquartered in New York, has opened its second regional office, a location near Miami serving the South.

RISE is an unprecedented alliance of professional sports leagues, organizations, athletes, educators, media networks and sports professionals using sports to bring people together to promote understanding, respect and equality. Through panel discussions with professional athletes, law enforcement and elected officials; public awareness campaigns; and educational programming from middle school to professional levels, RISE aims to improve race relations.

The new office is at Hard Rock Stadium, 347 Don Shula Drive, and is staffed by Anna Karefa-Johnson, regional director, events & programming, and Collin Williams Jr., regional director, leadership & education programs. The South office will serve the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

RISE in January opened a Detroit office serving the 12 Midwest states.

“When Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross founded RISE two years ago, he envisioned our work using sports to improve race relations having a national impact,” said Jocelyn Benson, CEO of RISE. “Opening our Southern regional office in Florida is a natural next step. We are excited to continue building on the partnerships we’ve developed throughout the Southern region of our country with professional sports organizations, community leaders, universities, high schools and law enforcement, and we look forward to fostering new relationships throughout the South.”

RISE has partnered with the Miami Dolphins on various community-building initiatives. Last season, Dolphins players Kenny Stills and Michael Thomas, together with former Dolphins Arian Foster and Jelani Jenkins, led the team in working with RISE to host a conversation to discuss issues of inequality and identify solutions to address them.

The conversation resulted in programs that have continued this season, including player ride-alongs with the Broward Sheriff’s Office and CommUNITY Tailgates. CommUNITY Tailgates, which are sponsored by Dolphins players, occur before each Dolphins’ home game at Hard Rock Stadium and involve activities designed by RISE meant to bridge divides and create a greater understanding among people of different backgrounds.

The Dolphins also were the first team to participate in RISE to Vote, a nonpartisan campaign launched by RISE that aims to register professional athletes to vote and encourages them to spread the important message of being informed and engaged citizens to their fans. In the South, the Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Hawks and San Antonio Spurs also have participated in RISE to Vote.

RISE also is presenting a workshop – “Identity & Diversity: What do you bring to huddle?” – this season for the rookies of each of the 32 NFL teams. To date in the South, rookies from the Dolphins, Falcons and Jacksonville Jaguars have completed the workshop.

Through its leadership training program, RISE has worked with Florida high schools including Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Booker T. Washington Senior High School in Miami, Broward County Public Schools’ Cooper City High School and Hollywood Hills High School, and IMG Academy in Bradenton.

In the South, RISE also has partnered in Florida with Florida State University in Tallahassee, Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale and University of Miami in Coral Gables, and in Texas with Rice University in Houston, Texas Southern University in Houston and University of Houston.

RISE’s partnership with Morehouse College in Atlanta has continued to expand since RISE and Morehouse co-hosted a town hall on “Race, Sports and the Activist Athlete” in October 2016 that featured Olympic legends, such as John Carlos; former NFL players, including Donte Stallworth; and journalists, including ESPN’s Josina Anderson. Over the past year, RISE and Morehouse have had meetings with current and former NFL players, as well as executives of various leagues, about social activism. A professional athlete activism boot camp is planned for February at Morehouse.

RISE has established ties with the Atlantic Coast Conference of the NCAA, facilitating modules from its leadership training program for the ACC’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee in November at ACC headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina. RISE also served as a presenter within the spring 2017 ACC webinar on the “The Socially Conscious Student-Athlete.”

In November in Florida, RISE partnered with the Jaguars and joined with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and members of the Jacksonville police force and U.S. Navy to host a town hall on how to improve race relations and create lasting change together in the Jacksonville community.

RISE presented a number of events during Super Bowl LI Week in Houston in February. Among those, RISE presented a town hall, “From Protest to Progress: The Power of Sports to Improve Race Relations,” leading a candid conversation with 13 NFL players on ways to improve race relations and create safer communities. The Town Hall was broadcast on SiriusXM Radio, and more than 30,000 people viewed the Town Hall on Facebook Live.

In New Orleans, RISE partnered with the NBA to create Saturday Morning Hoops, a six-week program in January and February that brought local youth together with members of law enforcement and featured a combination of on-court basketball programming and hands-on learning developed by RISE focused on leadership, conflict resolution, identity and diversity. Other partners for Saturday Morning Hoops included the New Orleans Pelicans, New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC), Up2Us Sports and the New Orleans Police Department.

Additionally, RISE has been active in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Washington, D.C.

Founded in 2015, RISE is 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to harnessing the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress.

For more information about RISE, visit www.RISEtoWIN.org.

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