Monday and Tuesday, the Beyond Sport Summit was a mission statement in action. Organizations were manufacturing indestructible soccer balls, or using skateboarding to empower young Afghani women, or starting a soccer league to help immigrants assimilate to a new culture. If the inspiration of these past and current projects can be channeled into the future, there is already a very real and very open issue to which activists in sports can send their efforts.
With the Sochi Winter Olympics approaching, there will soon be a readily available global stage on which social change can be made, in a place where oppressive hate still exists in the open.
“I’m gonna behave myself, for the record here, which is unlike me,” NBA commissioner David Stern said Wednesday, speaking as part of a panel that included Ed Rendell and was moderated by ESPN anchor and Philly native Kevin Negandhi.
“But you know, the first phone call to the new head of the Olympics [was] from President [Vladimir] Putin, and everyone wants to talk about the Russian law on homosexuality. Think about the opportunities that sports have to make a continuing statement, and the only thing that we’re saying in that context is ‘Shhhh! No one say anything!’”
Stern’s decrying of the relative silence on the world’s part in regards to Russia’s anti-gay laws was the most poignant sound byte of the morning. If the Beyond Sport mantra is to be believed, then the 2014 Olympics are a chance to be a catalytic moment in history, regardless of which nation is on the trophy stand.
“It really takes courage to take a stand, and speak up,” Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie had said in his opening remarks, which echoed further relevance after Stern’s statement on the Olympics and the issues of the future, “to make change, and to be relentless in getting there.”