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Nike LGBT Sports Summit sets four key agenda items, aims to redefine 'athletic champion'

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Ben Cohen and It Gets Better's Stephanie Laffin

Last week, about 20 different organizations came together at Nike World Headquarters to map a path toward ending bullying and LGBTQ bias and discrimination in sports. The Nike LGBT Sports Summit was a powerful weekend, full of thoughtful direction, laughs, and even some heated conversation.

One of the bold takeaways from the weekend was the joint goal of redefining what it means to be a "champion" in athletics. There's a fun trick-question I heard this weekend: How many NBA Championships has Kobe Bryant won? The answer is zero; The Los Angeles Lakers have won five championships while he's been on the team.

The way you become a champion is more than accumulating rings you get for your team winning national titles. A champion is more than someone who wins on the field. Champions lift up their teammates and welcome everyone onto their team. Without inclusion for everyone, you may win a championship but you'll never be a champion.

Over the coming weeks and months, you'll hear more about this initiative.

Kye Allums and Our Group's Anna Aagenes

Another big takeaway was the building of trust between the participating organizations. We talked a lot about breaking down the walls of competition between the organizations and working like a team. But to do that effectively, there has to be trust within the team. Many of the folks had never met each other or even talked on the phone. Sharing ideas and breaking bread together for three days helped build that understanding and trust that will help the collective communicate better and move forward together.

There were a few other pieces that struck me from this weekend:

  • There was a lot of honesty in the room. While I'm sure not everyone share the full extent of their thoughts, there were lots of tough conversations and people shared honestly about their concerns regarding competition and the work that they and others are doing. Those honest conversations were key to building real communication.
  • The folks at Nike are incredible. Robert Goman, Lisa Hunefeld and Lenna Comini have been working on this event for months and delivered real insight and power in the room when they needed to. Plus, Ronda Peterson was instrumental in charting a course for the burgeoning coalition. Finally, a big thanks to Dena, the tech guys and everyone else at Nike who contributed to the event.
  • I was impressed by how much people in the room pushed for better results. It seemed no one was happy with some middle-of-the-road outcome from this weekend. To me, "Redefining athletic champion," and implementing the action items we identified, is bold.

Again, I have to thank the three companies that stepped up to make the event happen: Nike, SB Nation and Microsoft. Each of them not only made the event possible, but they are opening doors for the future of the LGBT sports movement. This event was about the work we'll be doing for the next year, so that when we come back together a year from now we will have accomplished various action items together.

Here's a press release about the summit from NCLR. More photos are below as well.

Nike's Robert Goman

(Beaverton, OR, June 18, 2012)—Many of the nation’s top lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer sports, leaders joined Nike representatives at Nike World Headquarters for the first-ever Nike LGBT Sports Summit to combat bullying and anti-LGBTQ bias and discrimination in sports.

Advocates and organizations pooled their expertise and strengths over the last four days—June 14 to June 17—to develop a unified plan to end harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ athletes and coaches in kindergarten through high school, college, recreational sports, and professional sports.

In the next year, this newly formed LGBTQ sports coalition will work to achieve the following goals:

  • Each of the major American professional sports leagues will be engaged to work with our member organizations toward inclusion in their league.
  • The visibility of out collegiate athletes, coaches, and allies will be increased through a multi-pronged approach.
  • The national youth and adult recreational leagues will receive a LGBTQ inclusive model policy, and at least five leagues will have adopted such a policy.
  • Two million young people will have heard a new, inclusive definition of "athletic champion," and their physical education teachers and coaches will have received inclusive training resources.

Campus Pride's Shane Windmeyer and StandUp's Allison Doerfler

Outsports co-founder Cyd Zeigler began developing the summit last year after identifying a failure by LGBTQ sports advocates to work together toward a common goal. Zeigler then joined forces with NationalCenter for Lesbian Rights Sports Project Director Helen Carroll and Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s Changing the Game Sports Director Pat Griffin. Zeigler approached Nike about hosting the event, and they jumped at the chance.

"As athletes and coaches, we all understand the power of working as a team," said Zeigler. "This summit has given us the unique opportunity to identify our common goals and move forward as a united movement. Working together, we will dismantle bullying and anti-LGBTQ bias and discrimination in sports in the next four years."

Said Carroll: "I am excited to see transgender people, people of color, men, women and allies in sports working together to create a unified movement that captures the power of our different experiences and voices. The strength from this collaboration and these specific plans will make the sports world safer and more inclusive for all."

Organizations involved in the summit included: American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance; Athlete Ally; Br{ache the Silence; Campus Pride; ESPN; Fearless campaign; Federation of Gay Games; Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD); Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN); I Am Enough; It Gets Better project; National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR); National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA); Nike; Our Group; Outsports; StandUp Foundation; and You Can Play project.

"This summit happened at the right time," said Griffin. "We are riding the crest of a wave of attitude change about LGBTQ people in sports. We hope that the action plans that were identified at the summit will speed up this change."

Plans for future summits include an open invitation to other organizations and individuals to join these and future action plans to eliminate bullying and LGBTQ bias and discrimination in sports.

The event concluded with summit participants joining the Nike contingency in the Portland Pride Parade.

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