CLEVELAND — Cleveland’s three major professional sports teams—Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Cavaliers and Cleveland Browns— are joining forces to create a sports alliance to address social injustice throughout the city of Cleveland and communities in Northeast Ohio.
The sports alliance’s main goal is to develop a sustainable and direct strategy to address social injustice by improving the relationship between law enforcement and its citizens, encouraging nonpartisan voting activities and increasing the quality of educational opportunities for everyone.
The leadership for the initiative will include Cavaliers General Manager Koby Altman and Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff, Browns General Manager Andrew Berry and Head Coach Kevin Stefanski and Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti, General Manager Mike Chernoff and Manager Terry Francona.
“We have an extraordinary opportunity to make a lasting impact on society and the Cavaliers are committed to help bring about change,” said Altman in a statement. “The social and economic disparity in our community reveals some ugly truths, and Coach Bickerstaff and I are honored to be at the table to address these issues with such a prominent group of our peers. We never take for granted our place in the fabric of Cleveland and hopefully our coming together inspires others to join us.”
The beginning efforts of the initiative will focus on voting, voter education and nonpartisan voting registration, the group will work to create a partnership with civic leaders and minority organizations to address issues impacting them.
“We understand the platform our organization has to make a positive impact on these important issues,” said Berry in a release. “When Coach Stefanski and I began discussing how we might be able to elevate and broaden that impact by expanding the dialogue to our counterparts in Cleveland, it quickly became apparent that partnering with the other teams in our city would help our region come together so we can collectively address the problems that we’ve all been working to help solve independently.”
The leadership behind Cleveland’s professional sports teams recognize their platform and ability to be a positive agent of change.
“We recognize the profound impact that professional sports have on the greater Cleveland community, and the enormous responsibility that comes with such a platform,” said Antonetti. “While the circumstances that highlighted the need for this partnership are disheartening, Tito, Mike and I are excited by the opportunity to work with such a thoughtful and diverse group of leaders to identify opportunities to be a positive force for change. There is a lot of work to do, and we believe that this partnership will serve to amplify our collective impact.”
The announcement for the social justice initiative comes after the NBA and WNBA postponed playoff games Wednesday as players boycotted in the wake of Jacob Blake being shot in Wisconsin.
Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was shot from behind seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Aug. 23.
Before their game was postponed, Lakers superstar and Akron native LeBron James tweeted out (warning: graphic language) his continued frustration against the police violence of unarmed black people.
Bickerstaff said athletes are more than entertainment, saying if anyone can watch and celebrate them on the court, they, too, can share their pain outside the arena.
If you can watch, cheer, celebrate and share in their pain on the court, you should share in their pain off the court and show empathy for them if you value them as human beings acknowledge that they are hurting! Ask why? They are more than entertainment!— J.B. Bickerstaff (@jbbickerstaff_) August 26, 2020
After the boycott, Cavaliers Kevin Love tweeted the NBA was the most "unified league in the world."
We have the strongest, most unified league in the world!!! #change— Kevin Love (@kevinlove) August 26, 2020