RISE Super Bowl Town Hall

Posted Feb 3, 2018

A distinguished panel came together for the RISE Super Bowl Town Hall in Minneapolis on Friday, and the discussion centered around social issues as well as reviewing the organization's Athletic Activism Report for 2017.

RISE CEO Jocelyn Benson served as the moderator for the two-hour Town Hall, "The Next Play: Best Practices for Using Sports to Improve Race Relations," at the Super Bowl Media Center at the Mall of America. Panelists included players Seth DeValve of the Cleveland Browns, Josh McCown of the New York Jets, Benjamin Watson of the Baltimore Ravens and Dolphins safety Michael Thomas; retired running back Rashad Jennings; assistant GM Scott Pioli of the Atlanta Falcons; ESPN reporter Jim Trotter; and NFL Executive Vice President Troy Vincent, a former first-round pick of the Dolphins.

The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality's annual report presented the five goals of social justice work for the past year and provided three recommendations to move those goals forward.

"Reviewing more than 1,100 'actions' collated over the year, we found that 'raising a sense of awareness about inequality' was by the far the goal to which most athletes' actions were aligned," the report indicated. "Relatedly, the vast majority of athlete activism (73 percent) in 2017 also was focused on the challenge of racism or some intersection. Finally, acts of protest only represented a third of the players' efforts.

"We conclude, therefore, that the real story around athlete advocacy this year didn't take place on the sidelines of the NFL. While that work was certainly the most visible, for many athletes, teams and organizations, it was part of a larger drive to more deeply engage with their communities and society as a whole."

The other goals, as stated in the RISE report, included:

- Protecting human rights.
- Empowering individuals - giving voice.
- Encouraging civic participation and advocacy.
- Increasing access to resources.

The recommendations, built on the five provided last year to assist athletes and teams to increase impact and sustainability in future seasons, were to, 1. clearly communicate goals and metrics and report on progress regularly to stakeholders and fans; 2. Find ways to amplify your message, one example being the use of a common hashtag on social media; 3. Work with others; know your strengths. This was a suggestion for teams and athletes to focus their efforts and limited time on particular aspects of their cause while allowing content experts to focus on other aspects.

The Super Bowl Town Hall was livestreamed on Facebook and is still available below:

The Town Hall was the highlight of RISE's presence at the Super Bowl this year, but just one of many elements. RISE had a booth at the Super Bowl Experience all week, including Saturday until 8 p.m. Among those who visited the RISE "It Takes All Colors" activation at the Super Bowl Experience were McCown, Thomas, Brandon Copeland of the Detroit Lions and Cam Jordan of the New Orleans Saints.

The RISE activation at the Super Bowl Experience offered fans this year the opportunity to register to vote through its RISE to Vote campaign. RISE also will have a booth in Section 115 at U.S. Bank Stadium during Super Bowl LII between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

The Dolphins announced in early December that every player on their roster had been registered to vote, thanks to the RISE to Vote project.

RISE conducted a Super Bowl Podcasts Wednesday through Friday that featured interviews with Jordan, tackle Eric Winston of the Cincinnati Bengals, Copeland, Pro Football Hall of Famer Tim Brown, Pioli, DeValve, and Benson.

Brown spoke about the importance of role models and giving back; Jordan discussed athletes using their platforms to be positive role models for children; DeValve discussed the importance of awareness related to social justice issues; Winston discussed NFL players together being a force for good in our country; Pioli discussed the RISE to Vote national non-partisan voter-registration program, which he co-chairs for RISE; Copeland talked about giving back to his community and instilling that value in others; Benson spoke about RISE's work over the past year, its programs and events during Super Bowl week, the report on athlete activism, and RISE's plans for the future.

All interviews are available on the RISE website or HERE.

Pioli joined this week the RISE Board of Directors. That came a few days after the addition to the Board of Directors of longtime NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

"We're excited to expand our presence at the Super Bowl this year and feature all three pillars of our work - engaging students, fans and professional athletes," Benson said earlier this week. "It's a great opportunity on one of the world's biggest stages to demonstrate how sports, at any level, can be used to bring people together to improve race relations and drive social progress."

The Super Bowl activities have culminated a productive year for RISE, which was founded in 2015 by Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross as a nonprofit organization dedicated to harnessing the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress. Headquartered in New York, RISE in fall 2017 opened its second regional office, at Hard Rock Stadium serving 14 Southern states. RISE also has a Midwest office in Detroit.

In 2017, the Dolphins again had CommUNITY Tailgates at Hard Rock Stadium before home games, had player ride-alongs with the Broward Sheriff's Office and the North Miami Police Department, gave out weekly RISE awards to youth and high school players and coaches and moms, and had the first RISE High School Roundtable in the Dolphins locker room at Hard Rock Stadium where students from three local high schools gathered with Dolphins players and law enforcement officials to address various social justice issues.

RISE has been active in 24 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. RISE plans to be in all 50 states by the end of 2020.

For information about RISE, visit

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