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'Power of Sports' Summit focuses on inclusivity, diversity and acceptance in sports

Sports leaders and the public gathered to improve race relations, gender inequities, and cultural division in sports and community

CLEVELAND — On day one of the NFL Draft, a summit held at Progressive Field brought together the public and leaders in the sports world to explore new ideas and embrace differences -- all in an effort to bring about positive change through the unifying power of sports.

Thursday's “Power of Sports” Summit covered five main categories of racial equity, gender equity, sport for all, LGBTQIA advocacy and mental health, with a mission to normalize inclusivity.

"We are using this platform to talk about how sports has an influence over community. It’s important to talk about this, especially over the last year, there’s been so much inequality in this country, and especially now, we feel like this is a very important topic," says Rachael Stentz-Baugher of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission.

Stentz-Baugher says activism and social justice often begin in sports, with the athletes so many admire. Sports can be a cultural change agent in many communities. The focus on improving diversity, inclusivity and acceptance across the board is something especially important to the Cleveland Browns.

"We’ve always been very involved with including everyone. When we think about sports, diversity and inclusion is so important. There’s a sport for everyone – boys, girls, anybody.. of all ages," says Jenner Tekancic, Vice President of Cleveland Browns Community Relations.

"When you look at our front office, and Browns organization as a whole, we represent the community, and it’s very important to give everyone the opportunity to play a sport if they want to," Tekancic explained. 

From the adaptive football league that the Browns kicked off a decade ago, to conversations for change that the organization facilitates surrounding racial equality, Thursday’s summit was part of an ongoing effort to give everyone a voice and a place in sports, says Stentz-Baugher.

"We need everyone to love everyone. We need folks to be treated equally. Equity is important, again, in community and culture."