COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (May 16, 2018) – The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) and USA Volleyball announced today a partnership to bring RISE’s leadership and education programs to USA Volleyball athletes, coaches, referees, administrators and fans.

Founded in 2015 by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen M. Ross, RISE is a nonprofit organization dedicated to harnessing the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress. RISE is an unprecedented alliance of professional sports leagues, organizations, athletes, educators, media networks and sports professionals using public awareness campaigns and educational programming to bring people together to promote understanding, respect and equality.

“A fundamental pillar of USA Volleyball is to be welcoming to members of all ethnicities,” USA Volleyball CEO Jamie Davis said. “We are proud to be partnering with RISE to further grow the diversity and inclusion of our sport and to take a stand against racism.”

The USA Volleyball-RISE partnership will include initiatives such as education/training, workshops, athlete testimonials and fan engagements throughout the calendar year in various parts of the country. The first set of initiatives are taking place this week at the FIVB Volleyball Nations League in Lincoln, Nebraska, where the U.S. Women’s National Team is hosting Italy, Poland and Turkey.

“RISE is proud to partner with USA Volleyball to advance our mission of using sports to improve equality,” said Jocelyn Benson, RISE CEO. “We look forward to bringing our leadership and education programs to the USA Volleyball community and empowering them to be solution-oriented advocates for progress.

Ken Shropshire, a member of both the USA Volleyball and RISE board of directors, has helped spearhead the two organizations to work together.

“A tremendous opportunity for both organizations to amplify their desires to use the power of sport to positively impact race relations,” Shropshire said. “This partnership elevates the potential impact both can have on this perilous issue.”

The RISE leadership program is designed to empower sports administrators, coaches and student-athletes to be leaders in discussing and addressing matters of racism, prejudice, diversity and inclusivity within their teams, schools and communities. Program participants learn about the history of race and sports, the power of sports to drive change and how they can become leaders in improving race relations.

The program has made a major impact on the student participants. Among high school participants for the 2016-17 school year: 95 percent said they are culturally competent; 92 percent said they have the skills to have difficult conversations about race; and 94 percent said they would intervene if they saw someone being discriminated against.

Lori Okimura, chair of the USA Volleyball Board of Directors and a member of the RISE advisory board, said RISE has initiated the conversation allowing for substantial change in racial equality.

“I recognize the value of the conversation RISE has started across America about racial equality and how to empower athletes, coaches and administrators to strive for change,” Okimura said. “I appreciate the work of my fellow USA Volleyball board member, Ken Shropshire, who is one of the voices leading change and promoting equality on many levels as chair of the USAV Diversity & Inclusion Committee.”

A popular fan engagement through RISE is “It Takes All Colors,” a digital photo booth that allows fans to take the RISE pledge against discrimination and get a photo to share on social media. It has been featured in fan zones at Super Bowl 50, 51 and 52; the NHL’s Winter Classic; numerous Pac-12 championships; and Miami Dolphin games.

Foluke Akinradewo, a two-time Olympic medalist with the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team, is excited for USA Volleyball teaming up with RISE.

“I’m fully supportive of the RISE/USAV partnership and encourage others to visit the RISE homepage and take the pledge,” Akinradewo said.

Below is the RISE pledge:
I pledge, to treat everyone with respect and dignity. I will not tolerate discrimination or harassment of any kind. I will speak up whenever I know discrimination is happening and I will stand up for victims.

For more information about RISE, visit