CIVIC LEADERSHIP

Our vision is to make pro sports a place where athletes unlock their unlimited potential to inspire excellence and community. We innovate on and off the field to maximize engagement and excitement for a global community of fans.

We work to develop our athletes as civic leaders and elevate them as role models for the next generation of athletes and fans. In doing so, we aim to create a community of athletes and fans who recognize that the qualities that lead to excellence on the field are the same qualities that create strong civic leaders and participants in civic life.

Learn more about our civic leadership initiatives and check out the five themes we’re highlighting during our 2021 Volleyball season below.

Sareea Freeman

BLACK HISTORY MONTH

WEEK 1 – Sunday, February 28

 

Athletes Unlimited is proud to celebrate Black History Month. Our work in support of racial equity is a year-round effort, guided by our racial equity working group composed of athletes and staff, which meets weekly when we’re not in season. Our goal is to ensure that equity is considered in every aspect of our work, from recruiting of staff to how we tell our stories and how we build our community of athletes. 

© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2021 / Credit: Jed Jacobsohn

Each season begins with a Storytelling for Inclusion workshop, which uses storytelling to build connections across areas of difference among the athletes and highlights concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The workshop empowers athletes to share their different paths to pro sports, including issues related to representation in sports, barriers to entry, mental health, and more. 

During the season, our athletes participate in a weekly event called “Friday Night Lights” that was developed by and for the athletes. Friday Night Lights builds off the Storytelling workshop and creates a safe space to engage in conversation about topics such as racial justice, gender equality, mental health, intersectionality in sports and more. 

As part of our work to increase the visibility of Black athletes’ experiences, Athletes Unlimited produced a six-part docu-series called “Hitting Home: Representing in Softball” with Arielle Chambers of Bleacher Report examining issues of race in the predominantly white sport of softball.

“Having meaningful discussions about social issues facing our country and our sport… is very important to us as athletes. We hope these conversations promote increased awareness and lead to positive change for athletes of color moving forward,” said Athletes Unlimited Softball player Jazmyn Jackson.

We are excited to kick off Week 1 of Athletes Unlimited Volleyball celebrating Black History Month and uplifting and honoring African American communities, their culture, and their heritage on Sunday, February 28 at 9 p.m. ET/10 p.m. CT on Fox Sports (FS1).

Volleyball Group Photo

WOMEN'S HISTORY MONTH

WEEK 2 – Monday, March 8  (International Women’s Day)

 

At Athletes Unlimited we are making history every day. We are creating a new model for how a sports league is run, with our athletes at the center and involved in virtually every aspect of the organization, day in and day out. Through our Player Executive Committees our athletes weigh in on decisions large and small-from our scoring system to player recruitment to where the logos appear on the uniforms, and everything in between. Our athletes participate in the profits of the league – directly benefiting from the value they help create.

© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2021 / Credit: Jade Hewitt Media

We support our athletes off the field through our Athletes+ programming, which invests in our athletes’ long-term careers by providing professional development support and opportunities. Partnering with Abby Wambach’s Wolfpack Endeavor, we provide a next generation professional development and career exploration program that encourages athletes to use skills drawn from their championship mindset in sports to help them transition to a post-athletic career. And, through a partnership with Mariner Wealth we provide financial education resources to our athletes to assist them in their short and long term financial planning.

Finally, we recognize that our athletes bring their whole selves to the game. We work with our athletes to meet their childcare needs during the season so they don’t have to choose between family and career.

Our leagues are focused on excellence – with women at the center – this month and every month. We wouldn’t have it any other way. 

On Monday, March 8 at 10 p.m. ET/9 p.m. CT on Fox Sports (FS1) Athletes Unlimited will dedicate our game to Women’s History Month.

Ebony Nwanebu

ATHLETE CAUSES

WEEK 3 – Sunday, March 14

 

To support the development of athletes as civic leaders, Athletes Unlimited launched Athlete Causes in partnership with Give Lively and the Give Lively Foundation. This program enables each of our athletes to play for the organization and cause of their choice during the season. At the end of the season, the Give Lively Foundation will make a grant equal to 50% of the athlete’s end-of-season bonus to their non-profit.

© Athletes Unlimited, LLC 2021 / Credit: Melanie Page

Organizations selected by the athletes this season address issues ranging from racial justice to the environment, mental health and expanding access to youth sports. Our athletes also have the opportunity to raise additional dollars and visibility for their organization through promotion on their social channels and Give Lively’s amazing fundraising tools.

“The Athlete Causes Program is so important to me because it gives me a chance to voice something that I care a lot about besides my sport,” said Athletes Unlimited Volleyball player Katie Carter-Gutierrez. “As a mother, I have faced challenges that being an athlete helped me overcome. But more importantly – being a mother has made me an even better athlete. The organization I’m supporting, &Mother, is all about breaking the barrier for women in pro careers and making it possible to be a mother and be a pro!”

We are so excited to showcase all of these deeply meaningful partnerships during our game on Sunday, March 14 at 5 p.m. ET/4 p.m. CT on Fox Sports (FS1).

Starlings players

STARLINGS

WEEK 4 – Sunday, March 21

We are proud to be partnering with Starlings Volleyball, USA, to support increased visibility and access to volleyball within a broad range of communities. Co-founded by volleyball legend Kim Oden, Starlings believes every girl deserves the opportunity to play club volleyball, and their mission is to expand access and positively impact young women’s lives through the sport. 

 

Starlings provides access to volleyball for girls ages 10-18 from all socioeconomic backgrounds and levels of play. They currently have teams in more than 50 cities and Native American reservations across the U.S. Throughout the season, Athletes Unlimited and Starlings will engage in virtual conversations, meet and greets, and watch parties to connect Starlings players to Athletes Unlimited athletes.

To celebrate this partnership, our game on Sunday, March 21 at 8:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. CT will be dedicated to Starlings and will be easily accessible to all audiences on Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, Twitter, and Dailymotion. 

Donate to Starlings 

Frontline worker.

FRONTLINE WORKERS

WEEK 5 – Monday, March 29

 

Athletes Unlimited is committed to recognizing and thanking our frontline workers around the country for their efforts on our behalf before and especially throughout this extraordinarily challenging pandemic. 

Like you, our fans around the world, many of our athletes have frontline workers in their families and among their friends, including 12 of our 44 inaugural volleyball athletes. During the themed match, we will highlight some of those stories, in addition to a heartfelt surprise from us to the frontline worker community. We are deeply grateful for their sacrifices to keep us safe and allow our athletes to continue to pursue their dreams on the court. 

To recognize their efforts, our game on Saturday, March 27 at 8:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. CT broadcast globally on Athletes Unlimited digital platforms will be dedicated to frontline workers everywhere.