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Dolphins Owner Ross Takes Initiative To Affect Change

Posted Feb 25, 2014

Partnership with NYU is designed to target youth sports first.

There was no need for Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross to wait on the findings in the Ted Wells report for him to decide to be proactive in affecting change in sports, beginning at the youth levels.

Ross was secure enough in his own established set of values to kick start an initiative aimed at the locker room culture in all sports back in December with the NYU Sports and Society program. By first reaching out to Trevor Morrison, dean of the NYU law school where Ross graduated from, he was introduced to renowned lawyer Arthur R. Miller. It was Miller who founded the NYU Sports and Society program and who was eventually commissioned to produce the white paper that was released today looking into the issues of bullying and other unacceptable behavior in sports.

Anytime someone makes up his mind to take such a bold step and see it all the way through to the point where legislation was introduced today in Tallahassee, there has to be a fire in his belly. Ross, by seeing how the Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin story gripped the nation, felt that fire and had no intention of just sitting back and being a spectator.

“When you see something like this happen it really tells you what your principles are and how you can impact something,” Ross said on a conference call with Miller and Morrison and the media. “And when you realize how people reacted to it you really know it’s something that needs to be addressed. It’s gone on for a long time, people have talked about it and this was the opportunity to really address something and you could really make a change and have an impact. It really stood to my core values.”

Both Ross and Miller are involved with the Jackie Robinson Foundation and Ross has been on its board of directors since 1995. They both got to witness firsthand how behaviors and prejudices can change back when Robinson became the first African-American to break the color barrier in professional baseball in 1947.

All three parties on the call acknowledged that the legislation alone will not solve the problems addressed in the white paper and in the Wells report, but by educating those at the forefront of organized sports in the schools they believe it will spark the conversation. Morrison recognized just how passionate and committed Ross was to this idea in December.

“The thing that impressed me most about Steve thinking about the issue is the broad terms in which he defined it from the beginning,” Morrison said. “This was not in any way about the episode that happened in the Dolphins locker room in the fall. Steve came in thinking of this as a broad question and as this being a time where the country, frankly, should be engaging with the broad question of respect in sports and in society more broadly. His articulation of it, it just fit so well with the way that Arthur and his colleagues in the Sports and Society program think about issues like this.

“Sports is embedded in the culture and the phenomenon of sports is having an affect far beyond sports, but sports itself being a sufficiently important part of our society and our culture. Problems like this are critical ones and should be thought about carefully and deeply. That was the perspective Steve came into the meeting with and that he articulated and frankly that was one of the principle ways of which it made obvious sense for us to be working with Steve on this. It’s to address the broad question to do what we can to encourage positive change.”

There are two bills making their rounds up in Tallahassee, with one labeled HB 1117 being sponsored in the House of Representatives by Brevard County’s Republican representative Ritch Workman and one labeled SB 1282 in the Senate by Miami Gardens Senator Oscar Braynon, a Democrat. The specifics of both bills are consistent with the white paper and are designed to educate society on what behaviors and choices of words are acceptable in the workplace and beyond.

With this being Ross’ sixth full year as an NFL owner he continues to make a name for himself in that fraternity as a mover and a shaker. He has introduced many new ideas and this is one that he hopes will catch on league wide and beyond.

“I think the leagues are all looking at the conduct that has taken place,” Ross said. “This whole incident aroused an understanding of something that people hadn’t really looked at it or were wondering how you deal with it. We’re trying to provide some potential situations and hopefully they buy in at the same time.

“This is what I believe and what the Dolphins are doing about it and we hope to make it much more of a national effort. How can anybody be against it is really what it comes down to at the end of the day. This is for the good of everybody and having so much publicity around it, that it allows us to be heard and to hopefully have an impact.”
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