DOUG FEINBERG - AP Basketball Writer
Indiana Fever President Allison Barber wanted to find a way to continue the work her team and the rest of the WNBA did last summer in the fight for social justice.
A multiyear partnership with Anthem Inc. that was announced Tuesday will go a long way toward helping with that goal.
“Our players want to not only fight for good and for families and mental health and social justice,” Barber said. “They don’t want to just do it now, but for the rest of their life.”
Part of the partnership is a pilot program the Fever are doing with the Mays Family Institute on Diverse Philanthropy at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. Barber spoke with LaKoya Rochell, director of programs at the school, and they came up with Athlete to Advocate.
“We started talking to our core players in December when it was developed,” Barber said. “We wanted to work with them on the timelines. Some of our players are overseas, so we worked on finding times that worked for them.”
As part of the five-week online course at IUPUI that was funded by Anthem, members of the Fever, including general manager Tamika Catchings, will learn ways to raise social awareness of the causes they support, as well as enhance their philanthropic activities and advocacy through their platform as athletes.
“It's an interactive course,” Rochell said. “It gives them an opportunity to gain an overview knowledge related to diversity, equity and inclusion. How they can be activists for racial equity and gender equity as well. Being able to combine this in a curriculum will help the players learn how to make social change.”
The course starts Tuesday and will meet for three hours once a week. The curriculum was developed by the school and could expand to other teams in the future.
“I think it’s great to see, going back being a fan of the league for a long time,” Anthem President and CEO Gail Boudreaux said in a phone interview. “The league was founded on the community engagement model. They can use their voices for good in an organized way and put a bigger spotlight on it.”
Anthem is also partnering with the New York Liberty, Los Angeles Sparks and Atlanta Dream. The company has offices in those four cities.
Boudreaux said that whenever the teams play this summer there will be joint community activities that are a part of Anthem's priority areas, such as food insecurity and mental health.
“It's a very family-oriented league," she said. “Parents bring their kids to games and our business is serving families and their health needs. It's a really good opportunity.”