NEW YORK – ESPN President John Skipper and some of ESPN’s most high-profile commentators – SportsCenter’s Hannah Storm, Sunday Night Baseball analyst Jessica Mendoza and Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden – participated in a DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation film premiere and panel discussion at The Conrad Hotel on Tuesday.
Organized by DICK’S Sports Matter program, the evening was dedicated towards raising awareness for the youth sports funding crisis across America.
Following the premiere of the sports documentary “Keepers of the Game,” an official film of the 2016 Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival – about a Native American girls’ lacrosse team in upstate New York, Storm led a pair of panel discussions featuring some of the biggest names in the sports industry.
In addition to Skipper and Mendoza, participants included New England Patriots Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady; women’s tennis grand slam winner Serena Williams; Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin; Under Armor founder and CEO Kevin Plank; and Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, among others. The panels focused on the topics of “breaking down barriers” and the “path to success” in not only solving the funding crisis but also how to get more kids involved in sports at the grassroots level.
The evening concluded with DICK’S Chairman and CEO Ed Stack presenting Gruden with the first-ever DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation Sports Matter Impact Award for his ongoing work in championing youth sports through his own initiatives and continued support and dedication to the Sports Matter program.
In his remarks, Gruden highlighted the importance of Sports Matter and how the initiative already had funded more than 1,500 teams and impacted the lives of more than 114,000 kids. He encouraged the audience to volunteer its time in addition to considering donations to support local teams.
Youth sports participation has been steadily on the decline since 2008 due to a number of factors, including the high cost of equipment and fees, lack of places to play and safety concerns among parents. ESPN is helping to reverse that trend through its Corporate Citizenship programs, and last year alone enabled 125,000 youth to access sports.