San Jose State University Launches Institute, Convenes Town Hall on Athlete Activism

Media contacts:
Pat Lopes Harris, 408-924-1748, pat.harris@sjsu.edu
Robin McElhatton, 408-924-1749, robin.mcelhatton@sjsu.edu

SAN JOSE, CA–San Jose State University today will announce the launch of the SJSU Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change at “From Words to Action,” a town hall meeting featuring sports, media and social leaders discussing the past, present and future of athlete activism.

“San Jose State is the ideal home for a center of academic and research excellence and community engagement focused on sport, activism and social change,” SJSU President Mary Papazian said. “We are thrilled to welcome so many luminaries to San Jose today, and we look forward to building an institute that will enable and empower voices representing diverse viewpoints.”

The meeting begins at 8:30 a.m. in the Hammer Theatre Center in downtown San Jose. A live stream will be available here. The event is sold out.

Leaders and legends

Today’s event brings together many of the nation’s leading voices in athlete activism, from the early moments of the civil rights movement to the present. Two panel discussions will feature seven world-class athletes:

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame member, six-time league MVP
  • Anquan Boldin, 2015 NFL Man of the Year
  • Jim Brown, Pro Football Hall of Fame member, three-time league MVP
  • Danielle Slaton, 2000 Olympics silver medalist, soccer
  • Tommie Smith, 1968 Olympics gold medalist, 200 meters, track and field, SJSU alumnus
  • Takeo Spikes, two-time NFL All-Pro
  • Chris Webber, five-time NBA All-Star

More leaders and legends will attend today’s event:

  • Al Guido, San Francisco 49ers president
  • Ronnie Lott, Pro Football Hall of Fame member, eight-time NFL All-Pro
  • Marti Malloy, 2012 bronze medalist, judo, SJSU alumna
  • Jared Shawlee, San Jose Earthquakes chief operating officer
  • Keena Turner, San Francisco 49ers vice president of football affairs and retired 49ers linebacker
  • Jed York, San Francisco 49ers CEO

“We are proud to partner with SJSU alumnus Harry Edwards, the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, several Bay Area professional sports franchises and others in staging today’s event,” said SJSU Vice President for University Advancement Paul Lanning. “We have assembled an impressive group of men and women who have leveraged their careers in sports to push for social change.”

The heart and soul of an institute

At the heart of today’s event and the SJSU Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change is Harry Edwards, ’64 Sociology. This SJSU record-setting discus thrower and former faculty member rose to prominence as the spokesperson for the Olympic Project for Human Rights. The initiative inspired SJSU student-athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith to take their stand at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

Edwards earned a doctoral degree from Cornell University; served for three decades as a professor at the University of California, Berkeley; and served as counselor and adviser to the 49ers, Major League Baseball, the University of Florida and many more professional and collegiate organizations seeking to provide all athletes with a foundation for success.

SJSU’s institute represents Edwards’ vision for an academic center that sponsors research and dialogue on issues at the intersection of sport and society, and leverages the power of sport as an agent for positive social change. Pending review by the SJSU Academic Senate and SJSU Office of the Provost, the multi-disciplinary institute will have three focus areas:

  • sport and social justice curriculum and research;
  • continuing education and experiential learning activities; and
  • community engagement, commencing with today’s event.

“I am proud to see an academic institute devoted to the study of sport, society and social change established at my alma mater,” Edwards said. “SJSU has historically been at the forefront of social justice issues, and there is no better place for that work to be undertaken, and no better time for us to begin than right now.”

SJSU and RISE: A common purpose

Founded in 2015 by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross, the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) seeks to harness the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress.

RISE CEO Jocelyn Benson will moderate a panel discussion, and she will preview a special report that will be presented in full during the Super Bowl 51 weekend in Houston. The report will analyze the activism of NFL athletes in 2016 and make recommendations for a path forward that will ensure a sustained impact.

“RISE is grateful for the opportunity to partner with San Jose State University in elevating the conversation surrounding sports and social action,” Benson said. “This is essential to our mission. We are looking forward to being a part of the development of SJSU’s institute as a way to create more opportunities for richer, deeper dialogue.”

Draymond Green and “Sideline Racism”

During today’s event, a unique pair of Nike sneakers will take center stage. Emblazoned with the words “Sideline Racism” near the swoosh, and stamped with the RISE logo across the back, these shoes were worn by Golden State Warriors power forward Draymond Green at a Dec. 3 game against the Phoenix Suns at Oracle Arena in Oakland.

In a pre-recorded video, Green will offer a greeting. The shoes will be donated to the Dr. Harry Edwards Collection: Sport, Society and Social Change at San Jose State. The collection includes historic photos, autographed books, Olympic Project for Human Rights memorabilia, and correspondence from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Barack Obama.

SJSU Special Collections and Archives will curate the collection, in alignment with the research component of the SJSU Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change.

Carrying this work forward

San Jose State is grateful for the generous support for today’s program provided by the San Francisco 49ers and CEO Jed York, and the continuing generous support for programs for community and civic betterment provided by Denise DeBartolo York, John York and the York family. The Golden State Warriors, San Jose Sharks and San Jose Earthquakes have provided critical guidance and assistance.

A 13-member advisory board will carry forward the SJSU institute’s work, which will be informed by members of SJSU’s faculty with interest and expertise in various related disciplines.

“These times call for thoughtful, courageous research and education in the arenas of social justice and human rights,” said SJSU Associate Professor and Human Rights Program Director William Armaline. “I am committed, along with my colleagues, to enriching the work of this institute and to extending its reach and impact.”


About San José State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing more than 7,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 220,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

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