The overall objective of the America East Conferences' Spread Respect campaign is to create an inclusive, respectful arena for all student-athletes, coaches, and fans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, while also creating an awareness of America East's partners, the You Can Play Project and LGBT SportsSafe. That respect also extends to race, ethnicity, gender, religion and more.
Their goal is to use social media and traditional media outlets to facilitate conversations focused on inclusion and diversity for all individuals on college campuses. They hope their groundbreaking partnership with the You Can Play Project and LGBT SportsSafe will bring LGBT athletes, coaches and straight allies at all of the America East universities together to end discrimination and bias. They want to be a model for other National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) conferences and challenge athletic programs across the globe to emulate their efforts to ensure that ALL athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete and contribute to their team's success.
#SpreadRespect Social Media Campaign Goals:
The America East Conference became the first NCAA Division I Conference that partnered with the You Can Play Project and LGBT SportSafe. The America East Conference educates student-athletes, coaches, and administrators on the importance of equality, respect, and safety for all athletes without regard to sexual orientation or gender identity. That respect also extends to race, ethnicity, gender, religion and more.
Through the partnership with America East Conference, these organizations can share their message with nine different universities.
The America East Conference kicked off their campaign in 2014 by hosting "You Can Play Nights" during regular season men's and women's basketball games. "You Can Play Nights" transformed to #SpreadRespect games and event attendees were encouraged to use the hashtag to share information about the You Can Play Project and LGBT SportSafe message.
All nine of the Conference's member schools hosted "You Can Play Nights" games. Student-athletes wore custom Spread Respect branded shooting shirts and other sports gear featuring pride colors and the hashtag #SpreadRespect.
America East Conference expanded their initiatives beyond LGBT and focused also on race and ethnicity. Throughout the month of February they released videos of student athletes sharing Martin Luther King Jr. quotes and talking about what Black History Month means to them. They produced four videos in dedication to MLK Jr. Day and eight videos celebrating Black History Month.
In addition to the #SpreadRespect games, America East Conference schools hosted locker room campaigns to educate players on the importance of respect and safety for all athletes. They were encouraged to embrace the meaning of #SpreadRespect and work together as teams to create accepting and respectful team environments for student athletes from the LGBT community. America East Conference, one of its member institutions, and LGBT SportSafe came together to discuss the intersection of mental health and the LGBTQ+ athletics experience. Seven videos were produced from those conversations and were then shared through America East's social media platforms.
The #SpreadRespect campaign is promoted on social media using videos, photos, and other materials discussing the You Can Play Project and LGBT SafeSport initiatives.
Key features of the campaign include:
All nine member schools are working together to share the message throughout their campuses using both traditional and social media outlets.
There were 18 basketball games during the 2017-18 season with an overall attendance of 27,993. The athletes themselves have been the reason the campaign is so successful. They live the #SpreadRespect message at their game promotion tables, on their t-shirts, in their locker rooms, and across their campuses. The 2018-19 season will be the fifth-straight year America East men's and women's basketball programs will host a #SpreadRespect night.
While the campaign is ongoing, they have met their goals of creating awareness and fostering inclusion. The campaign received over 550,000 unique views on ESPN's online streaming service, ESPN3/ESPN+, in 2017-18. During the 2017-18 academic year, there were over 460 posts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, generating over 1.1 million impressions. New initiatives for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month generated over 19K views on 12 videos and over 82K impressions.
America East was the first NCAA Division I conference to collaborate with the You Can Play Project, which helped the initiative to grow exponentially. The initiative now includes several NCAA schools and conferences, as well as many professional sports partners including the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer. They were also the first Division I conference to collaborate with LGBT SportSafe, and are now recognized as members of their Founder's Club along with Nebraska, UCLA, Northwestern University, UNC, Temple, and Oregon.
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