Major League Commissioners Gather at Beyond Sport United

27th September 2011

The Commissioners of the US major leagues came together today to showcase their commitment to the use of sport as a tool for social change, co-signing a unique letter declaring a ‘collective commitment to this focused aim’ and taking to the stage as a group to address more than 250 influential figures gathered at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday 27th September for Beyond Sport United.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, MLS Commissioner Don Garber, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and NBA and WNBA Commissioner David Stern co-signed the letter, which acknowledged their leagues’ and teams’ place as the cultural heartbeats of their respective communities and vowed to tackle the ‘significant responsibilities’ that come with that proud and influential position.

Commissioners Bettman, Garber and Goodell then took to the stage at Beyond Sport United for an unprecedented Commissioners’ Roundtable discussion. The panel was not just a typical discussion about the world of professional sport, but an insightful conversation about a wide range of socio-political, economic, and global business issues, and an attempt to answer the question of how sport can play a role in addressing them.

That question was particularly important given the audience for the session, which was made up of some of sport’s most influential figures – including NFL team owners, the presidents of franchises from across the US major leagues and representatives of some of the Premier League’s top clubs – those groups contributing to a total of more than 80 teams from across the world.

Commented Commissioner Goodell: “When you have a certain amount of success, or are fortunate enough to be involved in professional sports, you have a responsibility back to your community, and to your fans. And they want to know, if they’re going to invest their time and their money in your league, that you are taking responsibility. ”

Commented Commissioner Garber: “With us, like all the leagues, it’s very much about health and wellness, and we’ve got all sorts of in-school programmes. One is called Active Bodies Active Minds – we’ve hooked up with an educator from Tufts University who wrote the curriculum, and we get out into the schools to educate kids in doing the right thing with regards to health and wellness. That’s in a big bucket – and we have other programmes in that bucket, like the other leagues.”

Commented Commissioner Bettman: “All these programmes are designed to make a difference in somebody’s life – kids, adults, people whose lives have been impacted by a particular programme which would not have been possible without using sport as a vehicle. And to me I think that’s more important than picking any one cause and saying we’re going to change the world. I think if we can impact some people’s lives one-on-one, that’s as important as anything else.”

Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA); the National Football League (NFL); the National Hockey League (NHL); Major League Soccer (MLS); and the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) are all signed on as Founding Supporters of Beyond Sport United – the first time the major US sports leagues have collaborated around the issue of sport and social change.

Sports Illustrated has backed the initiative as Official Media Partner.

Beyond Sport United is also partnered with secondary ticketing pioneers StubHub, executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles and United who have lent their substantial support to this unique event.

The Beyond Sport Summit and Awards 2011 will take place in Cape Town, South Africa from December 5-8.