“It started out with a focus on the LGBTQ community, with You Can Play Nice, over the years we’ve expanded our diversity and inclusion to encompass all types of inclusion, including LGBTQ. That expansion was really driven by our student-athletes. We shifted the focus and really widened the focus of it, in large part given to the political and societal conversations that we are having. We have conversations around racism, income inequality, it’s really be neat to see the evolution.” – Amy Huchthausen, America East Commissioner
America East has partnered with RISE, a national nonprofit that educates and empowers the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, champion social justice and improve race relations, to expand its Spread Respect events. This year America East will sponsor several campus events throughout the month of February. Spread Respect events raise awareness to ensure equality and safety for all student-athletes, coaches and fans without regard to race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Really what we are trying to accomplish is to one, show our league and the individual school’s commitment to diversity and inclusion first and foremost. Also, to show, we don’t just talk about it, we actually do stuff to support it, it’s not just a banner, it shows what people do to change the situation and have deep discussions.”
Spread Respect events will take place at American East basketball games over the next few weeks aiming to put into action what it means to spread respect by calling attention to key themes. The first event took place last night at Stony Brook. In addition to the game, America East and RISE also hosted several speakers, including RISE CEO Diahann Billings-Burford and select Stony Brook student-athletes.
“What I’m most proud of is our student-athletes and how they engage with this. They’ve owned these nights and these games since the very beginning. It’s really neat to see them embrace all of these different causes and see what they want to champion and bring them under the umbrella of Spread Respect.”
Eighteen Spread Respect events are taking place over the course of 15 days, each with a Spread Respect theme. Huchthausen explains to CollegeAD the themes show how to spread respect, rather than just talk about respect. The themes are Empathy, Leadership, Perspective Taking, Trust, Allyship, Critical Thinking, and Reflection.
As part of Spread Respect nights, both teams will wear specially designed shooting shirts prior to all Spread Respect games. Huchthausen says the overall message has spread beyond games. The conference hosted its first-ever Spread Respect forum.
“We did host our first ever Spread Respect forum this past October. We had representatives from all 9 of our schools attend, it included coaches, administrators, student-athletes, it was really institutional representation, not just athletics.