Featured in our 5th Annual Faces of Sports Issue!

I love our annual Faces of Sports issue because it shines light on a variety of individuals working, each in his, her or they own way to promote the inclusion, diversity, equality and acceptance that makes them leaders in the sports diversity movement. The common denominator linking the individuals you read about in this issue is that they’ve done something to make things better for themselves and for others – they’ve taken action!

We all know that sports can bring people together but some athletes face incredible challenges just to play the game they love. Those challenges can be physical but they can also be mental and emotional ones brought on by bullying for looking and sounding different – for their sexual orientation and gender identity, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs and sadly, the list goes on. These are all things that marginalizes and isolates them in some manner from their teammates or peers.

You can believe in the concept of equality, acceptance and inclusion mentally but it’s that action step that either makes or breaks a belief’s ability to become a game changer. Individuals like the ones in these pages have to apply their belief in the elevated and expanded idea of good sportsmanship in their everyday lives. Positive results are achieved only when enough of us make courageous decisions to grow personally and to respect, support and mentor others around us in that same quest.

But you don’t have to be a former professional athlete, a human rights advocate or someone else you think is important to stand up for your beliefs in equality and acceptance for all athletes. When you have a choice to make in your daily life, you only need the courage to do the right thing, especially in this current hyper-polarized climate. When you choose to include everyone and honor the differences they bring, you are making people feel special. You are ensuring that everyone who wants to play is able to participate and have a positive experience playing sports.

So when you’re faced with a decision to make today, whether it’s on the field of sport, business or daily life, your personal, individual choice counts more than you realize. Your choice to be accepting and welcoming of others and playing by the rules of fair conduct means you are actively supporting the overarching idea of sports diversity – you are helping to strengthen a very important idea by putting it into action in your own daily life.

By Connie Wardman