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LA84 Play Equity Summit Shares Ways to Care For Athletes
By Amanda Scurlock, Sports Editor
Published July 28, 2022

(L-R) COO of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Christine Simmons, UCLA Basketball Alum Nina Westbrook and nine-time NBA All Star Russell Westbrook (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

The 2022 LA84 Foundation Play Equity Summit touched upon several different topics including, social justice, Title IX, and mental health. The theme this year was ‘Elevate Play in a Post-COVID World.’

The Play Equity Summit had many special guests including L.A. Sparks center Chiney Ogwumike, L.A. Lakers guard Russell Westbrook, California first partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott.

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Ogwumike was in a conversation about the 50th year anniversary of Title IX along with former ESPN executive Carol Stiff and two-time Olympian Gwen Berry. When it comes to activism, Ogwumike thinks about the work that the WNBA has done.

“We’ve been consistent in our advocacy and I think starting in 2020, people started seeing what was hidden in the darkness finally was coming to light,” she said. “We don’t play for the money, we play for  the legacy, we play to carry that next generation’s passion forward.”

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Westbrook and his wife Nina talked about the Why Not Academy, an L.A.-based school that started in February 2021. Westbrook was also an executive producer of a short film called “Why Not?”

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“We wanted to be able to show how it is difficult … in the inner city to be able to have access to resources,” Westbrook said. “I just want to create a film that shows how positive things can happen in the community when you work together.”

(L-R) Olympian Angela Ruggiero, Former ESPN executive Carol Stiff, two-time Olympian Gwen Berry, LA28 CEO Kathy Carter, and two-time WNBA All Star Chiney Ogwumike (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

Los Angeles department of recreation and parks executive officer and assistant general manager AP Diaz talked about how the Olympic Legacy Program has given L.A. parks and rec a $160 million investment of funds. The investment will allow the city of L.A. to create the Play LA program that will provide Angelenos access to adaptive sports.

Paralympian and Angel City Sports co-founder Ezra Frech spoke on the barriers that arise for those who participate in adaptive sports. The barriers include lack of funds, access, and awareness, according to Frech.

“A sport wheelchair is $2000, can go up to $5000. The equipment for this community is extremely expensive,” he said. “Many of them don’t have programs like Play LA, like my nonprofit Angel City Sports in their communities and they have to travel to other states … just to participate in everyday recreational sports.”

L.A. Times columnist LZ Granderson moderated a conversation about mental health and wellness between former All-American gymnast Katelyn Ohashi and L.A. department of mental health psychiatrist Dr. Byron Young.

(L-R) LA84 Foundation president and CEO Renata Simril, NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott and State of California first partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom (Amanda Scurlock/L.A. Sentinel)

“I have a voice and that voice doesn’t just represent mental health, but it represents particularly mental health with a humanizing lens, particularly around Black folks, particularly around under-resourced communities of color,” Young said. “[It’s] nice to get to represent that voice in this space.”

Lott and Newsom are co-chairs of the Governor’s Advisory Council on physical fitness and mental well-being. The Council is creating ways for Californians to improve their wellness and health.

“When I was a kid, we moved from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Washington D.C.,” Lott said. “When I think of sports back then, I think of sports as a place where I found my soul, found my toughness, I found my vulnerability.”

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