RISE Leads Civil Rights Pilgrimage For Professional Athletes

by Yah Yah

The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) led a group of players and executives from the NFL and WNBA on a civil rights pilgrimage Friday, March 2nd, through Sunday, March 4th, in Alabama.

The trip was run in partnership with the Faith & Politics Institute and provided participants the opportunities to visit historic sites, interact with members of Congress and hear from activists and key figures of the Civil Rights Movement.

RISE was founded in 2015 by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross, and is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to harnessing the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress.

RISE uses sports to promote understanding, respect and equality.

Seven players and their families joined RISE board members Scott Pioli, Atlanta Falcons assistant general manager; Paul Tagliabue, former NFL commissioner; and Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations, and RISE CEO Jocelyn Benson on the trip.

“These athletes and sports executives went on this journey because they care deeply about improving race relations and promoting equality,” said Benson, who led the RISE participants on the tour of Birmingham, Montgomery, and Selma. “Learning from our history and the great civil rights leaders of our past and present can be a huge benefit for them as they work to drive social progress in our country.”

They RISE participants joined a bipartisan delegation of 30 members of Congress led by the Faith & Politics Institute and U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

The pilgrimage focused on the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and allowed participants to explore the places that defined King’s legacy of nonviolence, equality, and unity. Highlights included visits to Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. The trip concluded with a march across Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, commemorating the famous civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 referred to as “Bloody Sunday,” where Lewis and other nonviolent protesters were beaten by police.

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