Dolphins owner Steve Ross pledges $13 million to help fight systemic racism

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Dolphins owner Steve Ross before a game against the Bengals at Hard Rock Stadium on Dec. 22, 2019. - John McCall/South Florida Sun Sentinel/South Florida Sun Sentinel/TNS

Miami Dolphins owner Steve Ross has pledged to invest $13 million over the next four years into the RISE organization he started after the Bullygate saga of 2013 — with the goal of using sports to end systemic racism.

The new financial commitment, which was announced Friday, brings Ross’ total investment in RISE — which stands for Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality — to $30 million.

The national nonprofit, which was started after an NFL investigation found that Richie Incognito’s treatment of Jonathan Martin created a difficult work environment for Martin, has been using sports to educate and empower young people, helping them address racial discrimination, championing social justice and working to improve race relations since 2015.

“Growing up in Detroit, I saw firsthand what racism did to tear apart our community, destroy lives and further inequality. I started RISE based on the belief that our nation must address the scourge of racism directly to achieve true unity,” Ross said in a statement. “Now more than ever, our mission and need for this work is clear.”

RISE is already affiliated with every major professional sports league in North America, and works closely with the NCAA to educate and address racism and create an inclusive environment. The nonprofit’s board of directors includes Ross, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and several other top executives in sports and media.

The Dolphins already have one of the most diverse NFL franchises, considering it’s the only organization in the league with a Black head coach and general manager. Chris Grier, who has served as Miami’s general manager since 2016, became the team’s top executive on the football side of the organization in 2019. Brian Flores, who is of Honduran descent, is entering his second season as the team’s head coach.

The Dolphins also have Marvin Allen, who is Black, serving as the Dolphins’ assistant general manager, and Miami has three African Americans (Jason Jenkins, Myles Pistorius and Nat Moore) serving as vice presidents in the organization. The team also has five women (including Sam Coghill, stadium operations; Kimberly Rometo, chief information officer; Laura Sandall, marketing; Jamie Weinstein, premium & membership services) serving as vice presidents on the business side of the organization.

Over the next four years, RISE will continue empowering inclusive leadership and expand partnerships across communities with organizations such as NASCAR, the National Lacrosse League, PGA of America, Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, the Unities States Tennis Association and USA Track & Field.

RISE works with its partners on a variety of events and workshops. The nonprofit’s signature programs include leadership workshops on topics such as implicit bias, multi-week programs meant to strengthen ties between law enforcement and local communities through sports, and “RISE to Vote,” a campaign to boost election turnout and educate young voters on key issues.

In recent weeks, protests triggered by the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery encouraged the NFL to commit $250 million over the next 10 years to support social justice programs and pledged to promote key causes on its media platforms, including the NFL Network. Ross’ work through RISE is separate from the NFL’s commitment.

“During this time of national unrest, many individuals have stepped up to being part of the solution,” said Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations. “Steve continues to dedicate his time, resources and vision, as he has for decades, in an unwavering commitment to ending racism in partnership with the leadership, heart and influence of athletes globally.

“His words are backed by his actions demonstrated by his body of work to advance equality, respect and understanding as a leader in the national dialogue on race and social justice.”

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