CLEVELAND (WJW) — Over the past year, we’ve seen the world of sports collide with calls for racial equality and social justice. With the 2021 NFL Draft here in Cleveland, sports professionals are pushing for more equity in the industry.
“Is it through diversity that we’re going to go to the next level? Because there’s competition out there,” said Jonathan Beane, the National Football League’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.
Beane told a crowd at this week’s Cleveland Power of Sport Summit that he’s acting with a sense of urgency to make the NFL more diverse and inclusive.
“I think we’ve done a good job if every aspect of our organization represents who we are as a country and our fanbase,” said Beane.
To be clear, Beane knows there’s still work to be done. He says, right now, 75 percent of NFL players are people of color. 70 percent of players are Black. However, there are only two team owners of color and neither are Black.
For Beane, Cleveland is setting the example in terms of hiring and representation with Andrew Berry, a young Black man, serving as Browns General Manager and Callie Brownson, who was named the first ever female Chief of Staff in NFL History last year.
“These are two of our current and future leaders and for someone who is a fan trying to figure out ‘Hey, can that be me?’…and to see those two? Hey, that’s what we want. That’s what we need,” Beane said.
The message was clear at the Summit: you can’t just recruit diverse talent, you also have to retain them, as well as help them develop and advance.
Months into the position, Beane says he’s laid a foundation to do that. In March, all 32 NFL clubs submitted detailed plans on their diversity and inclusion strategy.
“More active recruiting, going to HBCUs…and from a cultural perspective, what kind of training are we doing? We’re doing issues like bias training, anti-racism training, allyship and inclusive leadership. So, each one of the clubs have committed to do that training,” Beane said.
According to Beane, the league’s strategy also includes working with diverse vendors for events to make an added economic impact.
While the Summit was an opportunity to discuss the lack of diversity and inclusion in sports, it was also about finding ways that can be changed.
When asked what ideas he wants to implement at the national level, Beane said he’s, yet again, impressed with Cleveland and all three of its major teams who’ve formed an alliance to focus on quality education, voting, and improving the relationship between law enforcement and the community.
“We are always usually competing against each other, but when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, when it comes to things that can have a huge societal impact on your city, to come together in that way, it’s absolutely fantastic and we need that in all of our urban areas.”