The Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity and international non-profit organization Athlete Ally are working together to establish the Sports and Social Justice Leadership Initiative.
About 20 student-athletes will participate in the pilot program, which will feature training sessions and workshops throughout the year, culminating in a conference where the athletes will train sports leaders and educators across the country on inclusiveness in athletics. The program will seek to "foster well-rounded and socially aware athletes," said Leslie Barnes, director of student-athlete development at Duke.
“This is a huge thing for visibility. Not only are we doing the educating, but now we’re sending the message that it’s part of our [athletes’] moral responsibility to advocate for sports as the culture that we want it to be,” said senior rower Lauren Miranda, who started the Duke chapter of Athlete Ally.
Targeted toward student-athletes at both the varsity and recreational level, the program will educate participants about past and present LGBT sports activism. In four workshops throughout the year, participants will split into small focus groups to research topics of their choice, work on publishing research papers and plan the Spring conference. Hudson Taylor, executive director and founder of Athlete Ally, and CSGD Director Bernadette Brown will oversee these training sessions.
Duke will be the first university in the country to implement this initiative. Depending on its success here, Athlete Ally plans to introduce this program to universities across the country.
“Student-athletes and professional athletes tend to have very influential voices," Brown wrote in an email. "There's a rich history of athletes impacting change when they speak out against violence, harassment and discrimination, and promote equity and inclusion across a range of social justice causes.”
Barnes noted that the program gives student-athletes a valuable opportunity to engage in extracurricular activities despite their busy practice schedules.
Duke was a prime candidate for piloting this initiative due to its strong athletics and high-profile student-athletes. Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, spoke in favor of the new program.
“I believe that Duke is a leader in its support for sexual and gender diversity as well as a leader with college sports," Moneta wrote in an email. "Thus, having this initiative at Duke serves to leverage both aspects of Duke’s strengths and signals how important this topic is to every college and university."
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