“Yeah I did, I don’t know man. UCF just seems like they’re trying to be different. I would probably stay in Florida if they [UCF] were like everyone else [other Sport Business Management graduate programs], but they just spend so much time trying to be different.”
Last fall, I sent out applications and resumes to a number of graduate programs with the hope of getting into a Sport Management MBA program. I will be honest and say that a year ago, I was not entirely sure of which program was the right fit for me, but I had narrowed down my list and I sent out my applications and allowed myself to become a part of that process.
Throughout February and March, I traveled all over, interviewing at different programs, and it was while on one of these trips that I met a kid from Florida. We were talking about where we had interviewed and when I asked him if he had interviewed at UCF, the aforementioned quote at the beginning of this post was his reply.
At the time, I was about 90% sure that I would choose UCF if they accepted me but I was not 100% sure – this person’s comments brought me the other 10%. You see, he had said his comments negatively but in his criticism there was a very profound shred of truth – UCF was different and that’s why I had to go there.
I remember when I was in 2nd grade there was this poster on the wall that said, “What is right isn’t always popular and what is popular isn’t always right”. In our conversation I realized that when this guy had said, “different” he was referring to the fact that DeVos had such a focus on diversity and ethics in sport. The more that I heard him criticize the program, the more I realized that these very ideals are the reason that I wanted to work in the sports industry – because I want to stand up for what is right and foster diversity in all aspects of life; especially sports. I feel that I have such an appreciation for diversity because it is not something that I have always been able to enjoy.
I come from a small town of 1000 people in Missouri. The population is predominantly (over 95%) white by race, Christian by religion, and middle class by economic standing. It was not until I was a freshman in college that I began to understand that there are so many people in this world that are different from me. Initially, when I first went to my undergrad I found myself shocked by the array of people that do exist and the number of ways in which we’re all different – age, race, sex, gender, religion, nationality, economic standing, and sexual orientation. However, I found that as time passed, I moved from a state of being shocked by other peoples’ differences to being tolerant of those differences to actually appreciating the ways in which we are all different.
And in a nutshell that is what I believe diversity is – the celebration of peoples’ differences. It is a chance for us to reflect on the richness of the human tapestry and be thankful for the many ways that we were made different. And while we have come a long way in terms of diversity in sport, there is still much ground to be covered. The directors of the DeVos Program (Dr. Richard Lapchick, Dr. Bill Sutton, and Dr. Keith Harrison) have made this their life’s work – to promote diversity and ethics in sport. As students, we have the opportunity to learn and work alongside them as we learn how we can positively impact the future of the sports industry. By having the privilege of being employed by the The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) I personally, have been able to contribute to the research behind the Race and Gender Report Cards (RGRC) that are issued for every collegiate and professional sport in this country every year. Several of my classmates and those who came before us, have contributed to report cards such as this and published books and articles about the issues of diversity in sport. Nowhere else would you have these opportunities or find this education.
While we spend a lot of time exploring diversity issues (through our classes, guest speakers, and trips) it is clear that this program does not only promote this virtue – but that we live it out as well. When I look at my class, I see an amalgam of everything that humanity has to offer. Our class has people of all genders and all races. We have people that have business and sports business backgrounds and we have math minors and political science majors. We have people that worked for years in the sports industry and we have people that have not ever completed any kind of sports internship. We have people from Kentucky, Florida, Nebraska, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Missouri, Michigan, New York, Massachusetts, New Zealand, Taiwan, and the Cherokee Indian Reservation (just to name a few). We have people from large cities, like Chicago and Boston, and universities and from small towns, like my own, and smaller schools. We have people of all racial, religious, educational, and financial backgrounds who are working together to not only get an MBA in Sport Management, but to figure out how to use that MBA to encourage business ethics and promote diversity in the field of sport.
What my acquaintance from Florida referred to as different, I call the right thing. I will even go a step further and call it the necessary thing. I find it hard to believe that any business education, sport or otherwise, can be complete if people do not recognize the role of diversity and ethics. There have been significant steps in sport - such as those taken by people like Jackie Robinson and Jim Thorpe and what we have been able to accomplish with Title IX - but there is still much work to be done.
There has to come a day where in one of humanity’s oldest traditions, competitive sport, we can use the array of differences that humanity has to offer as a point that brings us together, not one that drives us apart. There is just one race – human. The DeVos program recognizes this fact. Does that make us different? Perhaps. Is being different a bad thing though? Has anyone ever become the best by conforming to everyone else? Not at all.
When I talk about these things, I can’t help but remember that poster on the wall of my second grade class room:
“What is right isn’t always popular and what is popular isn’t always right.”
Be the change,