This week’s episode of the Good Works Show featured a guest who is achieving great results in creating new norms. Nzinga Shaw is the first person to hold the title of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the NBA, ensuring fans and players alike know that the team is more than just about their percentage from the free-throw line.
At the end of the season, every team wants to have more wins than losses, and always has their eye on making it to the championship. There are times, though, when the game is about more than just the game.
For the Atlanta Hawks, priorities extend beyond the club’s free-throw percentage as they place increased focus on diversity and inclusion on and off the court. In fact, the team’s staff includes the first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer position in the NBA, with Nzinga Shaw at the helm.
The Diversity and Inclusion office oversees three key areas. Working on internal engagement, a good employee and job candidate experience is encouraged, making sure job opportunities are publicized in the community to reach diverse demographics, and creating programs so employees can reach their full potential.
“That’s really what diversity is about,” Shaw said. “It’s about finding out what’s great about each individual and then having them put in positions to shine and succeed.”
From there, the office focuses on the game experience itself. Beyond the basketball, they put together a show that attracts a diverse group of fans to the arena. This includes engaging different groups, such as women, and the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities.
Lastly, the Diversity and Inclusion initiative works on strategic partnerships to ensure that the team partners companies that align with their community and outreach goals. Women and minority-owned businesses have been sought out, in addition to the more traditional, larger companies with Atlanta ties.
Atlanta’s rich and diverse community provides a solid starting point for the team’s efforts. Shaw hopes to work with the diversity of the city to bring more people together, and promote integration.
“It’s not about competition, but it’s about coming together to provide a unique experience that everyone can enjoy,” Shaw said. “It showed that we can be unified. At the end of the day, we are human beings, we respect one another, and we all deserve to live a good life.”
The Hawks’ MOSAIC Program, Model of Shaping Atlanta through Inclusive Conversation, is currently organizing its second event. The program tackles different issues and topics impacting the community, and brings together thought leaders from across Atlanta.
Last year’s event was held at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, and revolved around the theme of race and gender in sports. Grant Hill, Atlanta Hawks owner and seven-time NBA all-star opened the program with “fireside chat” with his mother, a former MLB consultant. The two discussed the challenges that people of color face in moving up the ladder in professional sports. The event also included a panel discussion on multi-dimensional diversity in professional sports.
This year’s MOSAIC event will be held on March 14 at the Georgia Freight Depot, and will center around the theme of sports as a catalyst for social change. “I think social action is really what we need to be talking about this year,” Shaw said.
Invitations to the event are first extended to the Hawks’ community, including sponsors and partners. Then, remaining seats will be opened up to the general public. More information on the event and tickets can be found on the Community section of the website at www.hawks.com.
To listen to the full episode of The Good Works Show, click here.