Task Force, Forums Created to Support USA Ultimate's Strong and Continued Commitment to Equity

Posted: April 24, 2015 11:35 AM

Task Force, Public Forums Created to Address Equity Concerns

Colorado Springs, Colo. (April 24, 2015) – USA Ultimate, the national governing body for the sport of ultimate in the United States, reaffirmed and emphasized its commitment to gender equity during a quarterly meeting of the organization’s board of directors last Saturday. This reaffirmation was declared following the submission, review and discussion of a proposal asking USA Ultimate to create a Gender Equity "Ombudsgroup" to serve as an advisory panel to the organization and communicate publicly on its behalf the advancements USA Ultimate’s programs and policies are making with regards to gender equity.

USA Ultimate continues to take the issues of equality, ethics, inclusion and diversity extremely seriously. The strong advocacy demonstrated by the proposal’s authors and their efforts to raise awareness and stimulate discussion of these topics are sincerely appreciated.

When it comes to gender equity, both the sport of ultimate and USA Ultimate have long been viewed as leaders in the sporting community. From the rare existence of a mixed gender division in a team sport at the highest level – a concept held in very high regard by both the International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) – to USA Ultimate’s many girls’ outreach and education initiatives, there is a lot to be proud of. Examples include the Girls’ Ultimate Movement (GUM), the addition of national and state youth coordinators focused solely on increasing the number of girls’ teams around the country, a strong history of women in both staff and board leadership roles, targeted grants and resources for women’s development and coaching programs, and ongoing equal playing opportunities for women and men.

The proposal submitted to the USA Ultimate Board of Directors requesting the creation of a Gender Equity "Ombudsgroup" was declined by a board vote. The decision came after several months of careful consideration and dialogue with several key members of the ultimate community, including many of the proposal’s authors.

As part of USA Ultimate’s process, and its general due diligence, the proposal was initially provided to the board’s Marketing Working Group (MWG) for vetting as the document primarily focused on the area of broadcast exposure. The five-person working group is USA Ultimate’s volunteer body whose principle focus is on external commercial partnerships intended to fulfill the organization’s strategic objectives related to exposure.

Once this initial review concluded, the chair of the MWG and the group’s USA Ultimate staff liaison initiated a call with the proposal’s primary author before it was later discussed at the January 25 board of directors meeting. Members of the MWG then asked several follow-up questions which were promptly and thoroughly answered by the authors. More information was later gathered by a larger group when the board president, MWG chair, CEO, staff and board members, and authors and supporters of the proposal participated in a conference call. Once this vetting process was complete, and in accordance with USA Ultimate’s operational procedures, a recommendation from the MWG was provided to the board which was voted on, along with the original proposal, when it convened for its April 18 meeting.

The board cited several primary reasons for rejecting the proposal. The board and organization are proud of its gender equity performance and its philosophy and approach to gender equity issues in general, while noting that there is always room to improve upon any organizational goals and initiatives. Additionally, the creation of a volunteer "ombudsgroup" would add a redundant layer to an existing system of governance and oversight. Also, many of the proposal’s authors currently sit on other advisory panels that provide feedback and guidance to the organization, including the Competition Working Group and player-elected athletes’ councils. Finally, as USA Ultimate further progresses within the Olympic Movement, it becomes increasingly subject to the expectations of the USOC, including following non-profit best practices, where it is the role of the professional staff, with strategic direction from the board of directors, to manage, implement and regulate day-to-day operations, including adherence to policies.  

Although the board declined to adopt the proposal, it served as a valuable reminder of the importance of these issues, as well as the need to more clearly communicate about them. As a result, the board identified two action items for implementation. First, the board created an equity task force comprised of current board members DeAnna Ball, Val Belmonte, Mary-Clare Brennan, Ness Fajardo and Josh Seamon. This task force will work to address overarching equity concerns related to gender (in addition to other protected classes, including but not limited to race, religion, ability and sexual orientation). Secondly, USA Ultimate will conduct two open forums – one annually at the U.S. Open and a second in the final quarter of the year, via conference call – for the ultimate community in order to openly discuss all equity issues.

USA Ultimate will publicize future information related to these action items as it becomes available.

Have any questions or comments? We welcome community feedback and discussion made in a respectful manner. Please refrain from profanity or personal attacks, as such public comments negatively reflect on our sport and community.