Monumental Sports & Entertainment — the same company that owns the Capitals, Wizards, and Mystics — announced several new initiatives and investments to address police brutality and fight for social justice on Thursday. The news comes nearly a month after George Floyd’s senseless murder due to police brutality in Minneapolis that spurred national protests and inspired many athletes and NHL players to speak out against racism.
“Sports have a significant impact on the day-to-day life of any great community, and I believe that owning teams is a public trust,” Ted Leonsis said in a release. “My goal is for our organization to serve as a unifying force for good – I believe this is part of our social responsibility, which we all take seriously at MSE. Core to our mission is inspiring all employees, stakeholders, and our community to ‘leave more than we take.’ So, I am proud to announce today our first set of initiatives, actions, and investments to do our part in calling out abuses of power from law enforcement in our community and committing to the deep, focused and long-term work on fighting social injustice.”
The most noteworthy part of the release includes the announcement of a march led by players from the Wizards and the WNBA’s defending-champion Mystics on Juneteenth – an unofficial American holiday to celebrate the emancipation of the remaining slaves in Texas.
Players will march from Capital One Arena to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in honor of Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and “too many others.”
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The Wizards also broke the news that MSE will observe Juneteenth as an annual paid holiday moving forward.
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) June 18, 2020
In his blog Ted’s Take, Leonsis recently wrote that “[e]ven though we are involved with organizations that have been on the right side of these issues for many years, I still didn’t understand the true depth of pain and outrage the way that I am learning this week. I’ve tweeted and posted my support for our players, employees, and the Black Lives Matter movement for more than a week now, but have been most inspired by the protesters who are peacefully marching just inches away from heavily armed forces, all while happening during a national pandemic. If we ever needed something that demonstrates how much Black Lives Matter, this is it.”
Capital One Arena and Gallery Place has been hosting a #BlackLivesMatter Outdoor Exhibit, which includes a mural of a Black hockey and basketball player painted along the side of the arena.
According to MSE, specific programs are currently in development and will be announced in the coming weeks, but a few immediate steps already underway include:
Mystics and Wizards-Led March
Athletes from the Washington Mystics and Wizards are organizing a demonstration with other professional athletes to draw attention to the issues of police brutality and systemic social injustices, with full support from the MSE organization. They will march to honor the memory of Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and too many others, and call for specific actions to advance the cause. Beginning at Capital One Arena, they will assemble and process to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on Juneteenth, Friday, June 19, 2020. Moving forward, Juneteenth will also be honored by the MSE organization as a day devoted to conversations and reflections to acknowledge the end of slavery in the United States. Juneteenth commemorates the day, June 19, 1865, that Union troops notified enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas, of their freedom, over two years after the Emancipation Proclamation.
New Employee Match Program to Fundraise for Social Justice Causes
MSE has announced an employee-match program for donations to nonprofit organizations advancing policing policy reforms and social justice causes. For each $1 a member of staff wishes to donate, Ted Leonsis, through his private Leonsis Family Foundation, will match the commitment. Additionally, the MSE ownership group would also match the commitment. So, an employee spending $1 would result in a $3 donation to the nonprofit of their choice.
Advocacy for Policing Reform Policy
MSE understands its role as a convener and believes it can join the voices of athletes, whom are engaged in deep advocacy on their platforms, its staff and its assets to host constructive dialogues, foster greater awareness and understanding, and force accountability to eliminate police brutality and achieve greater social justice. This commitment is both short term and long term, starting with initiatives that articulate immediate, specific calls-to-action. But it will also be part of MSE’s deeper, systemic work over the years to come.
Social Impact Partnerships on Policing Reform and Voting
Through MSE’s Social Impact department, MSE selects one nonprofit each month to highlight their extremely valuable community work and invites players, fans, and staff to participate in their efforts. Additionally, MSE utilizes its assets (video boards, social media accounts, fan e-newsletters, in-arena and broadcast media interviews, etc.) to increase awareness on that nonprofit’s issues, encourage volunteering, and provides grants and solicits donations for that nonprofit beneficiary. Moving forward, together with our athletes, MSE will select two nonprofits each season, one dedicated to addressing police brutality and the other to voting and will organize specialized programming with players and fans on those topics.
The ultimate accountability for any policy prescriptions is voting. MSE will work with our athletes and staff to promote the importance of voting: the rights every citizen should exercise and how to cast their ballots. At MSE, we are designating all federal, general election days to be a company-wide, paid day off. In addition, we recognize that elections within local jurisdictions vary. So, any employee residing within a jurisdiction which holds a general election falling outside of the federal election calendar will have an additional paid day off to cast their ballot.
Through a focused communications campaign, utilizing marketing assets, hosting events, and providing consistent messaging, MSE is committed to doing its part to increase registration, education, and turnout in all elections. This includes municipal, regional, and federal elections throughout DC, Virginia, and Maryland, as well as in the hometown markets of our athletes.
MSE’s Marketing and Communications departments are identifying resources and opportunities to provide educational materials, will promote specific calls-to-action, and will issue on-going public reporting on its efforts so fans and the general public can identify ways to get involved and remain committed to the cause.
MSE’s People & Culture Review
Under the direction of Ted Leonsis, the ownership group, and our executive committee, MSE’s People & Culture department has commenced a review of how to expand the company’s diversity and inclusion practices. MSE is committed to a spirit of openness so that the employee experience is rewarding, and each member feels valued. In partnership with the Minority Employee Resource Group (MERG), MSE is designing a set of internal town halls, a guest speaker series and other events and activities to strengthen the connectivity across MSE’s workforce.
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