Social Activism Through Sport

This panel attempted to deconstruct the ways that athletes use sports as a platform for

activism. It was moderated by Kenneth Shropshire, the CEO of the Global Sport Institute and a

former professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at The Wharton School. The first topic

covered was the tendency for athletes to create and run foundations. While these are great in

theory, it seems that less is more. Julia Hirshey, Director of Community Relations for the

Philadelphia Eagles claimed that while “20% of the players have foundations, maybe 4 should.”

Many players are attracted to the idea of having their own foundation, but only a few put in the

effort necessary to justify having one. Scott Shirley, Founder and CEO of the sports fundraising

platform Pledge It, has a message for athletes considering this method of activism: “It can’t be a

hobby…you gotta pour your heart and soul into it.”

The panelists then went down the line sharing some community engagement moments

they were proud of from their careers. One story that stood out was from Melanie LeGrande, the

Vice President of Social Responsibility for Major League Baseball. Melanie described how she

helped set up for the MLB’s televised Stand Up To Cancer moments during World Series

games, which involved the thousands of fans in the stadium holding up placards in unison. She

recalled stories of fans getting the courage to go to the doctor after seeing this moment and

receiving diagnoses of treatable cancer. Julia Hirshey shared the story of Lukas Kusters, a boy

who sadly passed away to stomach cancer at age 10. Through the Make-a-Wish foundation,

Kusters formed a relationship with Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Hirshey said arranging

this was so easy for the Eagles, “yet so meaningful for Lukas.”

The final topic that was covered was the idea of CSR, or corporate social responsibility.

They discussed how organizations can act socially responsible without necessarily incurring

costs. Jeremy Goldberg, President of LeagueApps, a software that helps communities organize

and schedule sports leagues, explained that when employees see leadership acting socially

responsible organizations, it will reap benefits in the long run. LeGrande elaborated that these

benefits include the cost savings of employee retention and increased motivation for their work.

Gabe Wieman

USBC Journal Writer

Class of 2022