The 4th Annual Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium took place on September 29-30 at Citi Field in New York City. This year, for the first time, MLB hosted the invitation only event, which included high-level representatives from all the major American sports leagues, collegiate bodies, the Olympics, and individual competitive sports organizations. MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke on Wednesday morning and participated in a panel discussion about diversity in sports involving other league representatives.
Importantly, for the first time in the history of the Annual Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium, the inclusion of people with disabilities was at the forefront. Wendy Lewis, Director of Diversity Supply for Major League Baseball noted that the inclusion of people with disabilities was the most important aspect of the entire symposium and it added a new dimension to the diversity issue that cannot be overlooked.
Along with Manfred and Lewis, PBATS spokespeople Jim Abbott and Jim Eisenreich, as well as President Mark O’Neal and board member Neil Romano participated at the event. They participated in the “General Session for Individuals with Disabilities: Engagement at all levels of the Game.”
Romano moderated the session, at which the group discussed the universal popularity of sports and how baseball and PBATS has positively impacted our engagement of individuals with disabilities.
The panelists shared “best practices” on how they have been transformative in their practices at all levels from the fan experience, athletes, employees, facilities and suppliers. They also discussed how to minimize physical barriers to enhance fan experience on-site and online, how athletes with disabilities are gaining momentum across all sports, and also how the utilization of assistive technology and accommodations is helping to breed more productive employees in sports.
About the event, PBATS President Mark O’Neal said, “PBATS’ membership is thrilled to be working hard for the progress of people with disabilities both in sports and in the workplace. As we’ve stated since our Abilities Transcends Challenges (ATC) program launched over two years ago, people need to absolutely see athletes and employees for what they can do, not for what they cannot do. We’re excited to know that MLB is supportive of our efforts, along with all major sports leagues.”
The NFL in 2012, the PGA in ‘13 and the U.S. Olympic Committee in ‘14 hosted the first three Diversity and Inclusion Symposiums.
There are 13 different sports leagues and organizations taking part in the annual Symposiums, including MLB, Minor League Baseball, the NFL, NBA, WNBA, NHL, MLS, NCAA and NASCAR.