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Preventing Discrimination in Sports

Preventing Discrimination in Sports

There’s been a wave of discrimination and harassment allegations against major companies like Amazon, McDonald’s, Pinterest, and sports organizations such as the USA Gymnastics. This month alone, the Women’s National Soccer League commissioner stepped down over alleged misconduct, and Raiders head coach, Jon Gruden, resigned over discriminating emails.

The National Women’s Soccer League Players Association recently engaged Syntrio Lighthouse Hotline services to provide players with access to a 24-hour anonymous hotline and web service for reporting abuse.

It is tragic when discrimination occurs in the sporting world or any other arena, but it’s compounded by even more shame because systemic abuse is preventable.

Industry Leaders and Best Practices

Innovative leaders are proactive about building high-performance cultures, and plenty of positive examples exist. Customers like the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals have been preemptive about providing employees with our anonymous hotline service. The Cubs have taken their program further with our online harassment prevention training.

These industry forerunners have adopted strategies and solutions that give their leaders visibility, awareness, and accountability. They benefit from early warning signals that help them avert public relations disasters and negative financial consequences.

Following are best practices to consider when evaluating and developing your continuous feedback and response strategy for your sporting industry organization, franchise, or players association:


Strong leadership in the sporting world must occur on and off the field. It defines and strengthens your culture over time, and often, an effective leader succeeds by following best practices. However, sometimes knowing the warning signs of ineffective management is just as important. A highly effective leadership team does not simply come together on its own, it takes time and a big picture view to form and lead a great team. Setting clear goals at the organization, function, and individual levels encourages exceptional results by giving everyone something to rally around and celebrate.

Mission, Vision, and Values

Shared values define the fundamental beliefs and aspirations that form the core of your culture. Your mission communicates the purpose of your organization, your vision statement provides insight into what your organization hopes to achieve or become in the future, and your values statement reflects your core principles and ethics.

Your code of conduct is a unique cornerstone for driving responsible actions that align with goals and expectations of proper behavior, all while minimizing risk. Getting employees, athletes, and others to rally behind your mission leads to new levels of passion and performance. Successful sports organizations also strengthen their mission with every generation because all stakeholders are hungry for purpose and meaning in their work.

Listen Up!

Modern employee feedback systems continuously gather pulses from stakeholders on how they’re doing on important ethics, compliance, and culture topics. The most effective systems capture feedback from anonymous hotlines, web reporting and case management, digital suggestion boxes, surveys, and exit interviews.

Speak Up!

A solid ethical culture ensures all stakeholders – including women athletes – are comfortable with raising concerns and managers are skilled in receiving and responding to feedback. A “speak up” culture benefits when everyone is comfortable raising concerns about questionable conduct and contributing suggestions and ideas. The most effective programs include bursts of microlearning, snapshots, and communication tools to educate employees and reinforce key topics and concepts necessary to your mission, vision, values, and objectives.

Experience Insights

Continuous response systems alone don’t drive an excellent stakeholder experience, but they matter in supporting your culture of trust and inclusion. According to a Grant Thornton study, 69% of companies are not measuring culture, despite 93% of executives who say they are attuned to their culture and are taking steps to improve it.’ Analytics fuel your organization’s intelligence and cultural awareness with automated dashboards, cultural updates, reports and alerts, and secure data retention.

Final Words

When organizations continuously engage and respond to employees, teams are empowered, and individuals know their voices are being heard and that they are essential contributors to achieving success. A healthy and vibrant culture is your first line of defense to prevent inappropriate behavior and create complete visibility and awareness across your organization.

Athletes, other employees, and stakeholders want their voices to be heard, a powerful force for employers of choice who continue to win the battle for top talent. To remain competitive, organizations and franchises need to leverage innovative systems that listen to feedback, encourage people to speak up, and present their feedback in real-time to leaders who sponsor a clear and compelling mission.

Syntrio’s ebook, Why Reporting Hotlines are a Best Practice, provides insights for improving your workplace culture and overall performance.

See you in the stands!

Edward Vesely is the Chief Marketing Offer at Syntrio. He has more than 15 years of experience leading successful businesses in GRC, HR and learning industries.

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