In a dark moment, Position Sports had a great idea.
Inspired by the shutdown of sporting events and social justice movements during the pandemic, the Phoenix-based organization wanted to make an impact.
Finally, the agency created the 2020 Dream Foundation, combining sports and inclusion to provide opportunities for students at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
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From there, Air Force veteran and former Grand Canyon University professor Mark Clifford joined as CEO in 2021 and helped grow the program.
“He creates a real relationship with us. It’s not just a relationship for him. He definitely takes the time to talk to us and get to know us as people,” said Miles S. Borum of the Fundación Sueno Group.
Since Clifford took over, the program has grown from 30-40 applicants to 120 applicants at 35 different HBCUs.
As the program grew, Clifford met with Javier A. Coyotes President and CEO. The Wolves jumped right in and are now in their second season of co-op.
“I think it’s important for them to have that conversation and this effort is very important to who we represent as the Arizona Coyotes,” Gutierrez said.
Students served in a variety of roles across both games, including hockey operations, corporate promotion, production, digital marketing and distribution. The Coyotes have several committees with various members of the organization, including Gutierrez.
“If you look at a league like the NHL, it’s not that diverse on the surface,” Clifford said. “When teams and organizations and owners and leaders and people who understand the value that comes from diversity and have different ideas and values and ideas to improve and develop the organization, it’s very important to have that voice. Listen to anything. In and around the team.”
According to the NHL’s first diversity and inclusion report released last October, 83.6% of the NHL workforce is white, 4.17% Asian and 3.74% black. 2.5 percent of the surveyed employees did not respond.
For many of the students participating in the game, it was their first NHL experience.
“It’s a sport that a lot of people don’t think about when you think about people of color. We’re not really in those games,” Daiquira Sweet said. “I think when you give it to HBCU students, they’re part of the dream. “Hey, look, it’s hockey. I never thought about it before, but we can. Bring it to our community and let them know. I think it’s something we should all be concerned about.”
Wolves sought opportunities for underrepresented teams and had a squad that reflected diversity. Gutierrez became the league’s first Latin American president and CEO in June 2020. The Coyotes have also implemented an internship program over the past two seasons that allows coaches from diverse backgrounds to learn and work with coaches.
in addition After a year in the diversity program, Brooks was hired by the Coyotes as a skills development coach.
“It represents what we want to bring different voices to the NHL and get them out there on the stage. Now they’re building that relationship, building that experience. I think the most important talent wants to stay home.”
What was once a means to meet the needs of the sports industry has become a life-changing experience for HBCU students across the country.
“Where we come from, you’re not going to see someone who wants to be in the same room every day doing the same thing you’re doing,” Borum said. “It’s a blessing to know people who are like me and think like me. The whole program is a blessing.”
Jalen Segers, North Carolina center
Sweet Daiquiri, Fisk University
Alexis Easton, Southern University and A&M College
Miles Borum, Talladega University
Sky Wiley, NC A&T
Mubarak Malik, Hampton University
Carl Baylor Baylor, Virginia
Jordan Jones, Morgan Estate
Leah Dawson, Howard University
This article originally appeared in The Arizona Republic. The Arizona Coyotes and the Dream Foundation are working to add more diversity to sports.