Through the #BeTheSolution campaign, a social justice educational movement inspired by General Manager Andrew Berry, the Cleveland Browns and Good Karma Brands' 850 ESPN Cleveland announced a partnership with "Build the Bridge." In addition to overall support throughout the year, the Browns and ESPN Cleveland in the coming months will highlight teams, athletes and coaches participating in the initiative, designed to empower, develop and unify high school football teams through meaningful interactions between programs of different racial and/or socio-economic demographics.
"Bridges connect people, and this initiative seeks to bring together coaches and players from predominantly black teams with predominantly white teams to have those uncomfortable conversations concerning race and social injustice," said President of the African-American Football Coaches Association and Beachwood High School Head Coach Damion Creel. "Football is and always will be the ultimate team sport that brings all races and cultures together in the same locker-room. Build the Bridge was created to break down walls that separate us for no reason. At the end of the day we are all the same, and true conversations will reveal that."
"Our team is passionate about providing resources to our community that advance both youth and high school football and social equality," said Vice President of Community Relations Jenner Tekancic. "We recognize the importance of dialogue and action, which makes our partnership with Build the Bridge and its mission to bring people closer together through the game, that much more meaningful."
"Build the Bridge and what Coach Stephens, Coach Hicks and Coach Creel have created is a great example of how sports can be part of the solution," said ESPN Cleveland Market Manager and Vice President of Good Karma Brands Sam Pines. "We are energized and honored to amplify the message from this great program."
"If anything is ever going to change, the change will be made by our young people," said Emmett Golden, co-host of "The Next Level" on ESPN Cleveland. "I'm extremely excited to watch the impact that this will have on our community and on our country."
In place of the Browns' "Bring the Dawgs Out" activation launched during last year's training camp, given fans and guests are unable to attend this year, the team will feature teams that have signed up for Build the Bridge during "Browns Live: Training Camp" each day on all of its media platforms. ESPN Cleveland will also conduct regular interviews with coaches, athletes and families, as well as continue to raise awareness for the #BeTheSolution campaign on its shows.
Established by Cleveland Heights coaches Mac Stephens and Kahari Hicks and Beachwood Head Coach Damion Creel, Build the Bridge strives to create a coalition of coaches, players, parents, administration and community members to foster the success of student-athletes through social-emotional, educational, and athletic advancement. The program creates opportunities for all team members to build relationships and mutual respect between diverse communities, regardless of their race, class or creed.
Once two schools are matched through "Build the Bridge," they plan an event focused on personal connections by conducting a collaborative discussion on social justice and race relations, competing with one another on the field or in the weight room and a shared meal to complete the day. Following the meetings, coaches and athletes are encouraged to remain in regular contact throughout the year to spark additional dialogue and strengthen team bonds.
Although this year's events may happen virtually or in a socially-distant format due to COVID-19 protocols, more than 80 Northeast Ohio high school football teams have already signed up to participate in 2020.
Following the tragic death of George Floyd, and as protests spread from coast to coast and across the globe, Berry on June 5 sent a passionate email to all Browns employees that ultimately served as the inspiration for the #BeTheSolution campaign. It is a direct call to action for all Browns fans, players, coaches and staff to get into the social justice arena.
Through #BeTheSolution, the team made social justice educational resources available and encouraged others to participate in the campaign by:
- Spending at least 8 minutes and 46 seconds (in honor of Floyd) on one of a number of educational or dialogue items available and submit a short written or video reflection about what they learned or will do moving forward
- Signing up for any social activism initiative
- Donating anything to a social activism cause
For more information and to review the available resources, visit www.clevelandbrowns.com/bethesolution.
About Good Karma Brands:
Good Karma Brands, LLC (GKB) is a sports media and entertainment company with expertise in local sports marketing activation. In addition to 850 ESPN Cleveland, radio assets include Newsradio WTMJ in Milwaukee, five additional ESPN affiliated radio stations and two stations in Beaver Dam, Wis. In partnership with ESPN, GKB can also offer local marketing partners geo-targeted advertising on ESPN's digital platforms. In addition to its radio assets, GKB boasts a number of premium brands, including an events division that produces the Wisconsin Sports Awards, Tundra Trio hospitality houses in Green Bay, Wis., and the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl. For more information, please visit www.goodkarmabrands.com.
About the Cleveland Browns and Browns Give Back:
The Browns Give Back to Northeast Ohio with a commitment to education and youth football while engaging the community through the team's signature First and Ten volunteer movement. For more information, visit www.clevelandbrowns.com/brownsgiveback.
Education – The Cleveland Browns are dedicated to improving the quality of education for students in Ohio by making investments that keep kids in school every day so they can succeed, highlighted by the "Get 2 School, Stay in the Game!" Network. The "Get 2 School" Network is a statewide initiative designed to promote the importance of school attendance and put an end to chronic absenteeism. The team engages local schools and promotes quality education by using attendance data and feedback from families to build a school-going culture, uncover and reduce common barriers to attendance and support engagement opportunities for students to thrive. To learn more, visit Get2School.org.
Youth Football – The Cleveland Browns are committed to assisting the development, safety and growth of youth and high school football throughout Northeast Ohio with year-round programming for players, coaches, officials and parents. Through camps, clinics and other initiatives, the Browns' goal is to promote healthy, social, emotional, intellectual and physical development of youth by enhancing opportunities for youth football participation and education.
First and Ten – Launched in June 2014, the Cleveland Browns First and Ten campaign is the team's community program, established to inspire fans to #give10 and help their communities by volunteering for 10 hours each year. Through First and Ten, the Browns are the only NFL club to promote a long-term volunteering program that unifies the team and its entire fan base, with the goal of impacting every individual's city across the globe, as well as the franchise's local community. To date, more than 2.75 million hours of volunteering have been pledged through First and Ten. All Browns fans are encouraged to join the volunteering effort by signing the First and Ten pledge on the team's website and by sharing their stories with #give10.