Imagery in ads for the LA84 Foundation Summit at the J.W. Marriott at L.A. LIVE on Oct. 18 hearkened back to the raised-fist, Black Power salutes by sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos during the medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
That was purposeful, marking the 50th anniversary of the incident, according to Renata Simril, chief executive of LA84. The ads aren’t all about Black Power, though, and neither is the summit, according to Simril.
The same ads also billed the summit as a place to take up “Athlete Activism” and “Social Justice,” notions that abound these days, thanks to some pro football players who have protested against what they perceive to be social injustice.
A quarterback named Colin Kaepernick started it in 2016 by remaining silent and seated as “The Star Spangled Banner” played before a preseason game. He later began taking a knee, and some other players showed various forms of support.
National Football League franchise owners, other members of the community of business, the media and pro athletes have scurried around the subject ever since.
The protest movement was a contributing factor in the removal of the founder of the Papa John’s Pizza chain from a role at the company.
Nike has made Kaepernick – who hasn’t been on a pro football roster for nearly two years – the star of an ad campaign and product line.
The Papa John’s flap has already had a particular effect in Los Angeles, with powerhouse attorney Patty Glaser representing chain founder John Schnatter in a high-stakes bid to take back control of his company.
Nike’s embrace of Kaepernick also has struck a chord here: new Laker LeBron James recently trotted onto Staples Center’s court wearing a Kaepernick shirt.
Downtown-based lawyer Mark Geragos, meanwhile, is representing Kaepernick in a collusion case against the NFL.
We note here the LA84 summit isn’t about Kaepernick or “The Star-Spangled Banner” or Nike or Papa John’s, according to Simril, who’s a veteran of the U.S. Army as well as various executive roles. Expect, instead, the talk of athlete activism and social justice to turn toward PE – play equity, in this case.
“Play equity means that the dreams of our youth must not be determined by their zip code,” according to LA84’s website.
Play equity certainly fits into the mission of LA84, created out of the reinvention of the Olympic movement in Los Angeles in 1984, led by an entrepreneur and business executive named Peter Ueberroth. His strong and personal ties to minority and ethnic communities preceded his Olympic experience. The ties grew afterward, too, when the late Tom Bradley, mayor during the 1992 riots, called on Ueberroth to lead Rebuild LA in the wake of that devastation.
Now LA84 has play equity in focus as it prepares for this week’s summit under the leadership of Simril.
We’ll look upon the effort with interest to see if a foundation that grew out of sports and business can help reshape a contentious conversation about the business of sports.
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