NEW YORK -- Sports are a major part of our culture and can be used to help promote diversity, awareness and inclusion in society. The Beyond Sport United conference, which took place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Tuesday, discussed the positive role sports can play in helping to achieve this goal.
The NHL was joined at the conference by the NFL, NBA, WNBA, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer to share ideas on how to use their platform to help with gender equality, economic mobility, and religious and racial discrimination.
"Representing the NHL at the Beyond Sport United event on behalf of our commitment to diversity and inclusion is something that's really important to the League, starting with Commissioner Gary Bettman on down," said Jessica Berman, NHL vice president of special projects and corporate social responsibility. "It is really a mandate for us both externally and internally to foster diversity and inclusion in our League."
The NHL has taken steps towards inclusion and equality for all with, among other initiatives, the You Can Play project, founded by Patrick Burke, now the director of player safety for the NHL, in 2012. Its goal is to eliminate homophobia in sports.
"I hope in five to 10 years, we have created more of an awareness of our unconscious biases," Berman said. "The more we can bring the unconscious bias to the surface, the better. Throughout our partnership with You Can Play, I've been fortunate enough to sit in on some of their training sessions where they give people permission to talk about those things that you feel you're not allowed to say. We have to be given permission to say the things that are in the backs of our minds so they can come out, be addressed, and we can move on. The goal is to get to a place where people can make the right decisions for the right reasons and not be driven by irrational emotional reactions."
Berman referenced the World Cup of Hockey 2016 as another way in which the NHL is making a positive impact with diversity and inclusion. The eight-team tournament will take place at Air Canada Centre in Toronto from Sept 17.-Oct. 1
"There will be representation from 14 different countries, many of whom speak different languages. For our sport, in hosting that international tournament, 95-plus percent of the players on the eight World Cup teams are NHL players. I am excited for the League to highlight the depth of that global diversity on an international stage, and build on that momentum in other areas of diversity."
In talking with representatives from the other sports leagues at the conference, Berman said they can learn from one another.
"It's an opportunity for us all to share our best practices but also to share our ideas and our experiences on an individual level so not necessarily with our League or team or company hat on but just as a human being who is interested in these issues," Berman said. "For me personally, I've been interested in diversity and inclusion since I was a teenager. This is an opportunity to put that holistic lens on the topic as we filter and share information. I think everybody who is here is using this as an opportunity to really look within ourselves to try and come up with solutions for some really hard and important issues."