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Dr. Richard Lapchick and DeVos Sport Business Management Program at UCF 

As we start the new semester at UCF, our students in the DeVos Sports Business Management Program are gearing up to create and present the fourth 4.9K Rainbow CommUNITY Run in June.

 

My wife Ann, our daughter Emily and I were at the memorial services for Muhammad Ali in Louisville. It was a sad day for the world and for us since Muhammad and his wife Lonnie were close friends. But it was also an inspirational day as the life of Ali came alive with stories of all he was able to contribute to making this a better world.

 

We flew to New York after the services, inspired by his life and wanting to do more. We spent Saturday with that same spirit and then woke up Sunday morning to the news of the PULSE Nightclub shooting. We were horrified and came back directly to Orlando. Watching the City rally around the victims, the survivors and the first responders made our pride in Orlando swell.

 

The sports world did its part in the healing process. The following Friday night was the already scheduled Pride Game for the Tampa Bay Rays. Not many people go regularly to Rays games. But when it was announced that there would be an on field ceremony as a tribute to the first responders as well as for the survivors and victims, all 43,000 seats were sold for the first time in more than a decade. The next night was the regularly scheduled Orlando City Soccer team’s match. They did the same with a 45 minute ceremony prior to the game. The fans had organized themselves on Facebook so that each section wore a different color shirt. The entire stadium looked like a Rainbow flag.

 

As President of the Institute for Sport and Social Justice, we decided to induct the City of Orlando into our Hall of Fame that October. We asked Barbara Poma and Mayor Buddy Dyer to accept for the City which they did. Inducting the City were Lonnie Ali, Muhammad‘s wife, Billy Bean, the first openly gay Major League Baseball player, Jason Collins the first openly gay NBA player and Rick Welts, the highest ranking openly gay sports executive as the president of the Golden State Warriors.  It was such a moving event and my friendship with Barbara and her husband Rosario started there.  I agreed right away when she honored me with a request to be on the onePULSE Foundation Board.

 

I am always proud of our DeVos students but never more so than when they approached me in the Spring of 2017 to create the Rainbow CommUNITY Run. I am not from the running community and know little about running, but they assured me that they could pull it off to benefit the onePULSE Foundation and the Zebra Coalition. I watched as they worked hard during the semester and was nervous when 10 days before the race we had less than 250 runners registered. Track Shack and its leaders had been incredibly helpful and assured me most runners signed up near the date of the event. Sure enough, 850 runners came on that glorious day.

 

I was so happy when the onePULSE Foundation asked us to do it again in 2018. The students staged event from start to finish and more than 2,200 runners came. Nearly $100,000 was raised for the onePULSE Foundation in 2018. The students again staged event from start to finish in 2019 and more than 3,300 runners came. It grossed over $200,000 for the onePULSE Foundation.

 

I have been in Higher Education for 50 years and my students have done amazing things over those years, especially since I came to UCF. Over the years we have completed countless industry projects for various organizations and leagues, but what I am most proud about is that we have spent 55 weeks rebuilding homes in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. We have worked on 150 homes in New Orleans. We went to Tuscaloosa after the tornadoes. We went to New York after Hurricane Sandy and Houston after Hurricane Harvey. All these experiences were so moving. But when I was asked recently in an exit interview with a recent graduate "what do I remember most since I came to UCF" it was the student-based creation of the Rainbow CommUNITY Run to help the onePULSE Foundation achieve its goals. As a board member and as Chair of the DeVos Program I can’t think of anything better than these two programs working closely together.

 

Barbara Poma is one of my heroes. We will do anything we can to help her and the Board reach their goals and serve the community that is PULSE.  We live in a time when hate seems so virulent and spreading so fast.  We cannot let hate win.

 

Richard E. Lapchick is the chair of the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program in the College of Business Administration at the University of Central Florida. Lapchick also directs UCF's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, is the author of 17 books and the annual racial and gender report card, and is the president of the Institute for Sport and Social Justice. He is a regular commentator for ESPN.com on issues of diversity in sport. Follow him on Twitter @richardlapchick and on Facebook at facebook.com/richard.lapchick.

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