Sports have the power to create social change—and they’ve done so throughout time. As a microcosm of human interactions, sports challenges us to interact with others. And often, those we encounter are quite different in many respects. Diversity in sports involves not only players having different sets of skills but also players having differences in beliefs, opinions, and experiences.
Bold Business interviewed leaders from the WWE, USTA, and MLB during the Synapse Innovation Summit and Diversity MBA National Conference to gain their perspectives on diversity and inclusion in major sports.
Today, diversity in sports organizations is readily recognized. Athletes of different ethnicities, cultures, genders and sexual orientation often come together. But the degree of diversity in sports organizations today is much improved from decades past. And as society has evolved, it has diversity in sports to thank for social progress. Even now, events on the playing field continue to shape how we as a society perceive diversity and inclusion.
Remembering Those Who Paved the Way for Diversity in Sports Organizations
In the last century, many sports legends have been recognized in a variety of sports. But none have been more influential and prominent than those courageous individuals who broke through the diversity barriers. Today’s diversity in sports organizations is a direct result of bold leadership both on and off the field. By identifying a few of these sports legends, their incredible perseverance and effort can be better appreciated.
Kenny Washington — Advancing Diversity in Sports in the NFL
By all accounts, Kenny Washington was a superstar at UCLA. For one, he excelled in baseball and was considered better than Jackie Robinson by many. However, his true fame was in football, where his offensive rushing record stood for nearly 20 years. In today’s world, he would have been a first-round draft pick into the NFL. But there was no racial diversity in sports then, as the NFL had banned African American players in 1933—a ban that lasted 12 years.
Kenny Washington’s break came when the Cleveland Rams decided to move to Los Angeles. The Rams wanted to play in the infamous LA Coliseum. But LA Tribune sportswriter, Halley Hardy, took issue with another all-White football team playing in a taxpayer-paid stadium. Under duress from Hardy as well as from Kenny Washington’s fan support, the Coliseum Commission required the Rams to allow Black players. As a result, today, Kenny Washington can be credited with introducing diversity into sports organizations throughout the NFL.
Jackie Robinson — Advancing Diversity in Sports in MLB
Jackie Robinson is well-known for the role he played in advancing diversity in sports organizations. In part, this fact can be attributed to the popularity of baseball as America’s pastime in the 1940s and 1950s. But it is also because of the incredible character, patience, and charisma Jackie Robinson possessed—and of course, his incredible talent. His first MLB game in 1947 resulted in 4 hits, 4 RBIs and a home run.
Without question, Jackie Robinson’s courageousness accounts for the diversity in sports that would follow in MLB and other sports. But there were also notable men who stood up for Robinson and diversity in sports organizations. Specifically, Branch Rickey, president of the Brooklyn Dodgers, was the one to sign Jackie Robinson to a contract. Likewise, MLB Commissioner Ford Frick and Team Manager Leo Durocher also went to bat for the superstar. The efforts of these individuals in addition to Jackie Robinson’s perseverance demonstrates the boldness needed to introduce diversity in sports.
Earl Lloyd — Advancing Diversity in Sports in the NBA
Earl Lloyd was known as the “moon fixer” because of his height. But this nickname could also be associated with his lofty impact in advancing diversity in sports organizations. Though Earl Lloyd was one of three African Americans to be drafted in 1950 into the NBA, he was the first to play. Despite being spat on by fans and refused service in many establishments, he persevered. And this went well beyond the basketball court.
Earl Lloyd’s impact in advancing diversity in sports positively affected the NBA. In fact, over 70 percent of the NBA today are individuals of color. Earl Lloyd also advanced diversity in sports organizations in the coaching ranks. When he retired as a player, he became the first African American assistant coach in the NBA. And he eventually became the second African American head coach in the NBA in 1971. Though recognized in the NBA’s Hall of Fame for his talents, he is well appreciated for advancing diversity in sports.
Althea Gibson — Advancing Diversity in Sports in the National Lawn and Tennis Association
Breaking the barrier for diversity in sports in the NFL, NBA and MLB were incredible feats. But doing so in professional tennis was even more challenging. Althea Gibson, however, represents a very courageous figure in advancing diversity in sports for tennis. Growing up in Harlem, Althea Gibson had little support, but she was a natural at tennis. Fortunately, two tennis-playing doctors active in the Black community took her under their wing. They encouraged her education and provided her with tennis lessons and a place to stay. And so, Althea Gibson excelled.
Unfortunately, Althea Gibson continued to meet obstacles despite her incredible tennis talents. It finally took tennis star Alice Marble to openly demand Althea Gibson’s presence on the court that made the difference. In 1950, the U.S. Lawn and Tennis Association granted inclusion of Althea Gibson into the tournaments. And over her ensuing career as a professional tennis player, she won 11 Grand Slam events. Her role in advancing diversity in sports is undeniable.
The Importance of Being Bold for Diversity and Inclusion
As evident from these courageous athletes, as well as the bold leaders who stood up for them, sports matters. By embracing diversity in sports organizations, society starts to pay with increasing attention to specific issues. The injustices, inequities, and discriminations become ever obvious when clear talent is excluded from athletic competition. The tangible evidence of the strong character of these extraordinary men and women is what has always made the difference. And sports provided the backdrop.
Diversity exists everywhere. However, just because diversity exists, it does not mean that inclusion follows. Acceptance of each other’s differences is a starting point. But true inclusion occurs when the benefits and advantages of diversity are recognized and pursued.
Diversity in sports has been a driver of positive social change for many decades. And sports continue to represent a microcosm where social issues are confronted. Nevertheless, it is ultimately those bold enough to stand up for diversity and inclusion that make the real impact.
In healthcare today, biologic therapies are commonly administered through subcutaneous injections. Presently, more patients administer these therapies at home in an effort to reduce costs. As the prevalence of chronic conditions like diabetes and cancer increases, injection therapies are expected to grow even more. However, injection devices have been lacking in the past for a number of reasons.
Problems associated with home injection devices have existed for a long time. First, there were many complications that came with the use of the devices. Many injection therapy devices are also uncomfortable, which can result in poor patient compliance with medication treatments. Finally, injection therapy drugs come in a variety of formulations, which pose challenges for self-injection. Fortunately, Enable Injections Inc. may have found a solution to these issues.
Compassion as a Driver for Better Injection Devices
For Mike Hooven, CEO of Enable Injections Inc., his career journey set the stage for his current pursuits related to injection therapy. Throughout his career, he has worked in neurosurgical valves, pacemakers, and a variety of surgical devices. Mike Hooven is also a veteran entrepreneur with successes in two prior medical device companies. In fact, Atricare, a public company involved in surgically treating atrial fibrillation, is worth over $1 billion.
In 2010, Mike Hooven founded Enable Injections, Inc. to create painless child vaccination injection devices. The endeavor was not a success. However, Mike Hooven’s vision on the need and potential for such injection devices in the future continued. Using years of research related to human factors involving self-injection, he and his team created an innovative injection device. By focusing on the patient first, Enable Injections Inc. is attracting a great deal of attention from Big Pharma.
enFuse and the Enable System – How the Injection Device Works
Patient input was part of the approach in developing the injection therapy of Enable Injection Inc. Mike Hooven also talked with a number of commercial pharmaceutical companies about a potential design. Their response was to create an injection device that does not require pharmaceutical companies to change their product formulations. Combining this recommendation with patient needs is what drove the development of Enable’s self-injection mechanism.
The actual injection device is a wearable unit about the size of half of a yo-yo and can be placed anywhere. A self-adhesive pad keeps the enFuse injection device in place, and it can contain up to 50ml of drug. Once on the skin, a patient simply presses a small button to receive the injection therapy.
As a result, the self-injection delivers the drug quickly with minimal discomfort while giving patients the control. The patient then discards the enFuse injection device and uses another one for the next injection therapy.
The enFuse injection device comes in a few different sizes based on the volume of drug used in the injection therapy. In addition, Enable Injections Inc. offers three different Enable Systems to fill the enFuse injection device. One accommodates drugs that need mixing while the others are for drugs that come in vials or syringes. As a result, Enable Injections Inc. has created an injection therapy system that pleases all stakeholders.
What’s Ahead for Enable Injection Inc. and the Use of Its Self Injection Device
Enable Injection Inc. is currently still considered a startup company in the self-injection device industry. In fact, it recently just completed its Series B venture capital funding at $50 million. But the company is growing quickly and getting a great deal of attention along the way.
Currently, Enable Injection Inc. has over 70 employees and this figure will likely expand significantly in the coming years.
Also, Enable Injection Inc. has several clinical trials in which it is participating. Likewise, the self-injection device company has several contracts with commercial pharmaceutical firms for future promotions. It includes a contract with CSL Behring, the top producer of immunoglobulin therapies, which are notably on the rise. Given this, Enable Injection Inc. anticipates regulatory approval of its self-injection device and system by 2021 at the latest.