LOS ANGELES — With Southern California's percentage of positive COVID-19 cases in decline, more and more youth sports leagues and teams are resuming play.

One organization is focused on bringing the transformational power of sports and play to all children regardless of race, gender, zip code or socioeconomic status.

What You Need To Know

  • The LA84 Foundation established the Play Equity fund in 2014

  • Play Equity is focused on bringing the transformational power of sport and play to all children, regardless of race, gender, zip code or socioeconomic status

  • The movement has brought together all 11 professional sports teams in the greater LA area for "The A11iance Los Angeles"

  • During Black History Month, play equity celebrated Black excellence in hopes of inspiring youth throughout LA

Unfortunately, many minorities do not have access to youth sporting facilities nor the opportunity to play sports of any kind in their communities. Taking the lead to try and create more opportunities in these communities, the LA84 Foundation established the PlayEquity fund in 2014.

Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation CEO Nichol Whiteman reflects on the partnership between the LA84 Foundation and the LA Dodgers Foundation.

“We share a mission to ensure that every young Angelino has an opportunity and access to be able to play sports,” said Whiteman.

Otha Cole, Play Equity project director, adds “The Play Equity Fund highlights that sports and social justice are intertwined and access to sports is a social justice issue.”

As part of the initiative, Play Equity was able to bring together all 11 professional sports teams in the greater LA area to create what is called "The A11iance Los Angeles."

In a commitment to working toward social justice in the LA community, the 11 professional teams invest funds into one pool to grant local organizations and local schools the opportunity to give students the chance to empower themselves through sport.

As well as providing for the local LA community, the initiative also gives professional athletes, such as Rams safety Jordan Fuller, the chance to act as role models for the children who participate in the program.

“I want to be a role model, just like I had a role model, I had a bunch of role models growing up and if I can be that for somebody else then I think that’s me fulfilling my purpose,” said Fuller.

The formation of the A11iance and their efforts in partnership with the Play Equity movement to create equal access for all youth sports demonstrates the importance of addressing systemic inequalities, especially with professional sports teams having the power to bring people together.

During Black History Month, Play Equity celebrated Black Excellence by virtually connecting youth throughout LA to employees and professional athletes on the 11 A11iance teams.

Black Excellence, as defined by Whiteman, is the amplification of the voices of Black men and women across a variety of industries, who show up and show out every single day. During the virtual event, LA youth had the opportunity to hear from Black leaders in sport such as Kiesha Nix, the executive director of the Lakers Youth Foundation, Renata Simril, the president and CEO of the LA84 Foundation, Blake Bolden, a pro scout for the LA Kings, and Rushia Brown the LA Sparks director of community relations.

LA84 and Play Equity also provided exercise challenges led by team leaders such as All Pro LA Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, LA Chargers running back Austin Ekeler and LA Rams Coach Sean McVay.

“Our hope and our mission and our goal really is to bring a long lasting sustainable stream of resources to these communities that have been ravaged, really, by systemic and structural inequities for generations,” said Cole.

Whiteman also emphasized the importance of this initiative for the youth of LA.

“The youth are our future, and so it is so important to be intentional about passing down the message of racial justice and unity to our children”

For more information visit playequityfund.org or LA84.org.