By Esera Tuaolo
Doug Sanborn and I are long-time friends. We both live in the Midwest area and often run into each other at various LGBT events. He spends so much time flying from one event to another across the U.S. representing MillerCoors, it’s no wonder he often posts thanks on Facebook to his various flight crews. So I’m happy I can introduce you to him.
Esera Tuaolo: When I ask you who Doug Sanborn is, what would you tell me?
Doug Sanborn: I’d say a guy who is lucky to work for a company that is dedicated to quality products and supporting the communities where we live, work and sell beer.
Many know you from various local, national and international LGBT sports tournaments but most don’t know much about your own sports background. What sports, if any, have you played?
I was an athletic trainer in college and I have played softball in the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance league, better known as NAGAAA, for many years.
What is your official role at MillerCoors? How do you interact with such a wide variety of teams, leagues and LGBT foundations?
I am the community affairs manager for LGBT nationally, and Chicago across all aspects. I work directly with many leagues and national partnerships, linking the local sales and marketing teams with the sports partnership opportunities.
How did you become involved in the LGBT sports diversity movement? Was it through work or as a NAGAAA member?
It was really through working in community relations for MillerCoors. Over the past 14 years with the company I’ve held positions in field sales, management and corporate relations. With my sports background, it became apparent that we could help make a difference in aligning with LGBT sports teams and leagues. So part of my responsibility in community relations is to align our strategies to those external partnerships. And I’m happy to say that MillerCoors has received a perfect score for 11 years in a row on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index.
Part of your work is serving on non-profit boards, like the Matthew Shepard Foundation (MSF). Please share what that means to you on a personal level.
I am so very proud to be on the Matthew Shepard Foundation board of directors. It was a very humbling moment when Judy Shepard asked me to be part of the great work the MSF is able to achieve. Truly, one of the happiest moments for me is to help make a difference.
Most people in the LGBT sports community know you as the “beer” guy but I know there’s so much more to you and what you do than that. What are some of your career highlights, things you’re most proud of?
As I just mentioned, working with the Matthew Shepard Foundation and counting Judy, Dennis and Logan as friends. The ability to work with many great organizations that are working so hard to make the world more equal for all, and trying to erase hate in any form.
It’s also having organizations move from calling us sponsors, to understanding through coaching that we are a partner in the work that they do, too. A program that I am very happy about was one I started here in Chicago called Great Cents. It aligns local nonprofits with on-premise accounts to achieve a donation for the nonprofit organization.
Also, I am very proud of the holiday meals program that we started here in Chicago with the Center on Halsted. I think that one more if I may, is that we are the first national company to work with Trans Tech as a partner; Angelica Ross and Trans Tech are just amazing!
What are some of your future goals?
I would like to continue the great work for equality that I have started here because of the commitment of MillerCoors. I think it is crucial that more and more companies understand the need for equality and how diversity and inclusion plays a critical role in not just corporate growth but also in human growth.
Since you see such a wide variety of sports across the U.S., how has diversity and inclusion for gay athletes changed over the last 4-5 years?
Wow, there are so many that have shown the courage (truly, the real heroes) to fight the fight for equality. Because of what they have been working toward for so long without being highlighted for their work, it has allowed some more high-profile people, professional players, to identify themselves as being gay, finally being able to share their whole truth.
I think that one of the best quotes I heard on a national sports talk show is “won’t it be great when no one covers the ‘coming out’ of an athlete—then we will be stepping in the right direction.” I think that all the unsung heroes who have paved the way for the LGBT conversation to be had now in the open and not just behind closed doors deserve a lot of credit.
Photo courtesy of Doug Sanborn.
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