NBA Commissioner David Stern, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Eagles Owner Jeffrey Lurie and former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell all shared center stage yesterday as the Beyond Sport Summit concluded in Philadelphia. Stern and Rendell offered opinions on a wide range of topics in a dual interview moderated by ESPN's Kevin Negandhi that focused on sport’s role in building a better society. “Sports has an enormous capacity through its values, through the attention that we get, through our athletes, through all that we do, to really make an important contribution,” Stern said. “We should be severly criticized if we don’t take advantage of that. And really, we shouldn’t talk about it as an opportunity, we should talk about it as an obligation.” Rendell invoked the '09 film "Invictus," set amid South Africa’s apartheid period. “The thing that I took away from 'Invictus' was the joy of the kids as they saw the Springbok players,” Rendell said. “Sports can be so uplifting, it can be so helpful. It’s tough out there, it's tough in the United States of American in many places -- the richest country in the world. It’s really tough in other places in the world as well, and sports can lift like nothing else.”
GYM CLASS HEROES: Both Stern and Rendell were quick to tackle government cutbacks that have disproportionately impacted gym class, some Stern called “governmental malfunction.” Aside from the fitness aspect, losing sports in school takes away other lessons that kids take away from them. “There are a whole lot of things that happen just from losing the physical activity," Rendell said. “But more than that, the lessons I learned through sports in high school were infinitely more valuable to me later in life than the lessons I learned in the classroom, even though I learned some good lessons there. Kids learn to cooperate, to play together, learn teamwork. It’s hard to learn teamwork in a social studies class. Sports can be such a motivator for kids to do the right thing, cooperate, to take care of each other, no bullying, and if we take that out of school we are losing so much more than just the money we’re saving." Stern added, “We have already taken it out of school. I think the [government] decided that it’s really important to have so many hours of physical activity a week. They then looked and saw, ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve sold off the fields, we’ve shut down the gyms, we have a problem on our hands.’ And really, what happens with government budget cuts, they take away music or sports, things that allow kids the ability to express themselves and learn about playing as part of the band or the team or develop a sense of competence or confidence and it’s a very, very serious governmental malfunction."
LOOKING FOR COURAGE: Lurie opened the day by calling on delegates to have the “courage” to make a difference. He said, “It doesn’t take courage to point out what’s wrong around us and blame others for it. What really takes courage is to take a stand and speak up. To put the resources and partnerships together to make change and be relentless to get there.” He pointed to the Eagles' work at Lincoln Financial Field as one example that “businesses can do well by doing the right thing.” Lurie: “When we retrofitted our stadium … we retrofitted it to significantly lessen our environmental impact. It wasn’t something that a lot of teams were doing but when you have a stadium that’s the largest gathering spot in the city, it’s the meeting place, … so should the major gathering spot be an iconic force for social change? We think so." The ability of sport to lift people out of poverty has been a common theme throughout the summit, and Mitchell hammered that home during his remarks. “One of the great contributions that sport can make in every society is to give young men and women opportunity to learn, to work together, to be part of an entity that is larger than their self interest and enable them to grow in a way that otherwise would not be available to them,” he said. “Sport is critical in social development and most especially among young men."