Money & Business

US Tennis Association Launches “Be Open” Diversity Campaign

By / Sep 3, 2020 Tennis star and activist Naomi Osaka. (courtesy USTA)

With cries for racial justice still prevalent and the pandemic continuing, USTA wanted to take a stand that honored its long-held stance on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Its new Be Open campaign shares the stories of people, communities, and causes that exemplify the spirit of “being open.”

As their signature tennis event—the US Open—kicked off on August 31, the United States Tennis Association launched Be Open, its new diversity, equity, and inclusion campaign.

“We wanted to lean into our longstanding values of promoting equity and justice for all,” said Nicole Kankam, USTA managing director of marketing. “We wanted to shine a light on this issue and honor the heroes of this movement.”

The campaign is multifaceted and includes videos, artwork, and social media posts designed to capture the idea of being open and inclusive of all people. The three lead videos on the Be Open homepage focus on civil rights activism, gender equity, and LGBTQ issues.

USTA thought pairing the campaign with its signature event would help bring the most attention to its goals. “As an organization, we realized, this was a huge opportunity,” Kankam said. “The world’s attention was going to be on the US Open, and we couldn’t let that time pass by without acknowledging the reality of what is happening and standing up for what the USTA believes in.”

The Black Lives to the Front part of the campaign enlisted 18 Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color artists to create art pieces for the front-row seats of Arthur Ashe Stadium. The campaign also pays homage to healthcare workers from around the world by teaming them up with US Open champions to recognize all they have done in the fight against COVID-19.

While the most visible parts of this campaign highlight professional players, USTA is made up of regular folks who all share a love of tennis. Be Open also showcases some of the initiatives aimed at encouraging young, everyday players.

“There are stories that span across our sport,” Kankam said. “It’s engaging not just professional athletes, but the community as well.”

Although the Be Open campaign was conceived months ago, Kankam said its spirit was already infused in USTA. Just before the US Open began, star player Naomi Osaka planned to withdraw from her semifinal match in the Western & Southern Open in protest of the Jacob Blake shooting. After Osaka’s announcement, tournament organizers decided to pause play for a day to draw attention to racial inequality and social injustice. The organization highlights Osaka’s activism in its Be Open materials.

“This sport has a long history of activism,” Kankam said. “It’s an opportunity to honor that history and legacy.”

The campaign has been well received, and from an association standpoint, Kankam is gratified they were able to accomplish it during a pandemic.

“The wonders of Zoom allowed us to film and put together a lot of it remotely,” she said. “I’m so proud of the work this team has been able to put together, in the midst of the pandemic, and being challenged to work in a different and unique way. I am also humbled by the responses. It really has resonated with a lot of people.”

Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is an associate editor at Associations Now. She covers money and business. Email her with story ideas or news tips. More »

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