“Changing the game” is perhaps the most apropos idiom for athletic footwear brand New Balance and its endeavor to empower diverse student athletes. As the summer season winds down and culminates with back-to-school in full swing, New Balance proudly touts the launch of its newly expanded relationship with GLSEN, an organization that protects the rights of LGBTQ+ student athletes centered on fostering safe and inclusive locker room and sports environments without discrimination, harassment, and bullying.
GLSEN’s relationship with New Balance expands with the brand’s investment in its Changing the Game initiative, which beyond advancing the acceptance of LGBTQ+ youth in sports is inclusive of more resources, professional development trainings for educators and coaches, and ultimately more representation of LGBTQ+ students in athletics, aged K-12, that are persecuted for their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. New Balance will increase its investment in the Changing the Game program within the U.S. and expand beyond the United States with a $600,000 commitment over the next three years aiming to impact 1 million students.
New Balance’s commitment to inclusivity crystallizes in an internal framework that begins first with a differentiated approach to relationship within its industry. Jeff McAdams, Vice President of Global Marketing at New Balance, told Fairchild Studio that the brand is distinctive in the footwear segment due to its range of strong, authentic brand collaborators who are not afraid to take risks, be proactive and create success on their own terms.
“As we look at collaborators and brand ambassadors, it’s important for us to seek relationships with a diverse group of talent that aligns with our brand values. As a brand, we are fearlessly independent and each of our collaborators and ambassadors embody that in their own unique way,” McAdams said.
“This is an exciting time for the brand and we’re proud of the work we are doing and look forward to continuing to forge relationships that move the conversation forward and continue to leave an impact on the industry.”
McAdams said that the state of diversity and inclusivity in the footwear segment is quickly evolving, and New Balance is tapping into that energy to help lead the industry forward. “Now more than ever before, there is an incredible amount of opportunity within the industry to drive change through representation. We are proud of the impact we’ve made thus far through our strategic approach to collaborators and brand ambassadors and want to continue to drive that impact – not only across New Balance and the work we are doing with GLSEN, but within the entire industry.”
In early 2022, New Balance established Prism Alliance, an Associate Resource Group (ARG) at the company that focuses on creating a safe and supportive space for current and future associates, while also supporting and striving for diversity and inclusion.
“Prism Alliance’s purpose is to establish New Balance as an authentic voice and advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community through education and engagement that better serves associates, consumers, athletes, and communities,” McAdams told Fairchild Studio.
And New Balance has made “great headway and progress” on its D&I efforts, according to the brand. “With Prism Alliance launching this year, the first goal was to get up and established and now we are charting out the next few years on what more we can do and more voices to amplify. Working with GLSEN over the last three years has been crucial in making positive changes in the LGBTQ+ community that inspire our associates and community.”
“We are able to take steps forward in both sport and culture that will set up our next generation to feel welcomed, included, and safe,” he added.
New Balance said it continuously challenges itself by asking “How we can do better?” as a benchmark of its own ongoing success.
“How can we authentically tell stories within the community and amplify those voices through new and existing programs?” McAdams asks. “At New Balance, we want to continue to listen to our associates, consumers, and community to ensure they feel heard and represented across sport and culture.”
“I’m proud of what our ARGs are working on and what they will be bringing to life over the next few years and how our involvement with GLSEN will continue making an impact, not only for our associates, but also the community at large. Stay tuned!”
The GLSEN Afterglow
GLSEN discusses the newest iteration of its relationship with New Balance, details of its Changing the Game program, and what the organization is planning next.
Safe, seen, and supported – that’s the triple threat alliteration put forth by GLSEN’s Changing the Game program designed to reach LGBTQ+ student athletes suffering from discrimination, harassment, and bullying in locker room and sports environments at school.
Its newly expanded relationship with New Balance, for GLSEN, means a relaunch of its ten-year old program to include a fresh focus on the inclusion of trans and nonbinary student athletes – and a desire to see more representation of LGBTQ+ students participating in athletics.
With New Balance’s support, the relationship also enables GLSEN to extend the reach of Changing the Game within the U.S. and abroad.
Here, Madison Hamilton, Director of Communications and Public Voice at GLSEN, talks to Fairchild Studio about its ongoing relationship with New Balance, Changing the Game program, and what’s coming up next.
Fairchild Studio: Tell us about GLSEN’s expanded relationship with New Balance. What does the collaboration entail?
Madison Hamilton: GLSEN has been collaborating with New Balance for three years to support LGBTQ+ youth from the field to the locker room, and we’re thrilled to deepen our partnership this year to truly change the game. New Balance made a transformative investment in GLSEN’s Changing the Game to advance the acceptance of LGBTQ+ youth in athletics.
This investment means more resources, more professional development trainings for educators and coaches, and something we are so excited about – more representation of LGBTQ+ students in athletics. Additionally, this partnership enables GLSEN to dramatically expand the reach of Changing the Game within the United States and abroad, reaching more LGBTQ+ youth, coaches, educators, parents, and allies than ever.
Fairchild Studio: Walk us through GLSEN’s Changing the Game program. What is its mission?
M.H.: For more than 10 years, GLSEN’s Changing the Game initiative has expanded acceptance for LGBTQ+ youth in athletics through the development and implementation of inclusive physical education curriculum and sports guidance. Thanks to support from New Balance, in 2021, GLSEN relaunched the program with a focus on the inclusion of trans and nonbinary student athletes.
This groundbreaking program was expanded to include updated and new resources, educational training, engagement opportunities, and stories from LGBTQ+ young athletes and their supporters. And now, through our continued relationship with New Balance, we’re able to give more coaches, teachers, and families the tools they need to ensure all students can fully participate.
What initiated the program and how does it support the LGBTQ+ athletic community?
M.H.: GLSEN’s most recent National School Climate Survey shows that 40.2 percent of LGBTQ+ students avoided physical education or gym classes because they felt unsafe or uncomfortable, 27.2 percent were prevented from using locker rooms aligned with their gender identity, and 10.2 percent were prevented or discouraged from participating in school sports because of their sexuality and/or gender identity.
Among LGBTQ+ students, our research shows that transgender and nonbinary students are less likely to participate in school sports than their cisgender LGBTQ+ peers. Trans and nonbinary youth are being hit especially hard by cruel efforts to exclude them from opportunities to exercise, play sports and access school facilities on equal terms with their peers.
This is why we started Changing the Game — to make all students feel safe, seen, and supported.
The relaunch of Changing the Game incorporates new findings about the current needs of, and issues facing, LGBTQ+ students in athletics; professional development trainings for educators and coaches; an ambassador program encouraging student leaders and allies to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights in their local school communities; and more representation by LGBTQ+ athletes.
Fairchild Studio: Are there any specific moments or successes with Changing the Game that you’re most proud of?
M.H.: We were particularly inspired by LGBTQ+ student athletes sharing their stories to fuel change. Two students in particular, Esmee Silverman and Eric Samelo, have been leaders in the fight for inclusive schools and sports. From their stories, it was clear far too many LGBTQ+ students face hostile environments in school and on the field, and that adults need to do their part to rise up in support.
With this continued relationship and expanded investment from New Balance, we are committed to creating a future where all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, have a right to play and feel like they belong.
What’s next for GLSEN?
M.H.: In addition to the expansion of Changing the Game, GLSEN recently launched a campaign called Rise Up for LGBTQ+ Youth. This campaign asks individuals and communities to rise up at the ballot box, rise up in the classroom, rise up on the field, and most of all, rise up and fight back against attacks on our students. Because at the end of the day, it is not on kids to save the world. Creating a safer, more equitable future requires all of us to rise up for positive change.