For over 35 years, The Center for the Study of Sport in Society has used the influence and appeal of sport to create positive social change.
Who We Are
Over the course of our history, we have connected the world of sport with social-justice-driven research, education, and advocacy through programming and global community engagement.
The Center has historically aimed to transform the culture of sports from competition to inclusion and to promote a paradigm shift that sports are more than just the scoreboard.
Due to its central place in society, the visibility and stature of athletes, and the extent to which its worldwide audience cuts across gender, race, and socioeconomic lines, sport can bridge cultural gaps, resolve conflict, and educate people in a way that few other activities can.
Founded in 1984, Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society is one of the world’s leading social justice organizations. Through research, education, and advocacy, the Center uses the power of sport to foster diversity, create gender equity, prevent interpersonal violence, challenge racism, sexism, and heterosexism, and empower sport-based youth development networks to create access, opportunity and sustainable impact. All of the Center’s staff and trainers are former professional, collegiate, and/or Olympic athletes, and as such, our curriculum is built through the lens of sport and off of a sport platform.
We have delivered customized versions of our training to every major college conference, to preparatory schools, to all branches of the Military, to Major League Baseball, to the National Football League, at the South African World Cup, to recidivism prevention programs, to communities, to police departments, to youth offender programs, and to over 100 high schools in Massachusetts in partnership with the Attorney General and the New England Patriots’ Charitable Foundation. Our programs have a long history of proven impact with a diverse range of participants.
MVP- Mentors in Violence Prevention
The Center is most recognized for its foundational Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program. MVP motivates all types of institutional leaders across multiple spectrums including corporate leaders, educational faculty, school staff, athletes, students, and others to play a central role in preventing gender-based violence. MVP motivates participants to work together in preventing all forms of gender-based violence, including abusive relationships, battery, rape, sexual assault, and harassment. Utilizing a unique bystander approach to prevention, MVP positions participants not as potential abusers or survivors, but rather as empowered leaders who can engage and challenge peers’ abusive behavior.
MVP is realistic, interactive, and provides participants – adults and youth – with actual skills. Too often, trainings on gender-based violence prevention are impractical. Participants feel that while the ideas are important, the issues are not relevant to their everyday lives in and out of the corporate and/or educational structure within which they exist. MVP is designed so that participants will not only see how interpersonal violence affect their lives but more importantly will feel empowered with concrete options and skills to confront these issues. Moreover, the Center’s emphasis on training both leaders and staff, and/or faculty and students, helps each of these institutions create sustainable, inclusive models to change their normative culture.
DHP- Don’t Hate the Player
The Center’s newest program is Don’t Hate the Player (DHP), a racial justice program that develops participants’ capacity to see and challenge racism in all forms. DHP aims to address the challenges that institutions, corporate entities, global sports leagues, nonprofits, and schools face in effectively engaging in conversations about racism, power, and privilege. By deepening participants’ understandings of racial identity, implicit bias, and institutional racism, and by working on skills to effectively interrupt interpersonal racism, these workshops give participants new tools to move towards effective action.
DHP builds on the interactive, dialogic pedagogy of MVP in creating spaces for participants to engage in dialogue authentically and deeply while opening the door to personal insight and compassion through critical reflection. DHP also seeks to craft an intersectional lens – raising up the perspectives of people who experience racism, sexism, and heterosexism – as participants build personal action plans for change. These tenets allow DHP participants to break the taboo of talking about race through inclusive and constructive conversations.
TSP- Toxic Speech Prevention
How did more than a million people decide that it was okay to slaughter their neighbors? The latest program developed by the Center, the Toxic Speech Prevention course; is a language-themed exercise at preventing the linguistic conditions which give rise to the mass participation of normal people in genocide. It will tackle issues such as racism, anti-semitism, islamophobia, xenophobia, nationalism, and sexism in an effort to provide a deeper look at how language forms the foundations for these discriminatory practices. TSP enables participants to identify linguistic trends in themselves and others which can divide our communities as well as dehumanizing members of them. These specific tools can help provide awareness of the subtlety of harms which occur regularly throughout every sector of human interaction including: every level of the global sports network; from pro teams to youth sports, in media, schools, corporate offices, political structures, and any public or private forum.
TSP builds on the bystander approach pioneered by the Center’s MVP program, utilizing a combination of history, discussion, games, media, and statistics to provide a safe space for participants to truly grapple with the content in an honest and reflective manner. TSP seeks to provide an informational backdrop for participants to gauge the potential harm of a statement, while understanding the natural ways in which we speak to and about each other. These tools will allow our participants to engage their communities in conversations around the topics of acceptance and tolerance, rather than resorting to the mentality or actions of factionalism.
Our staff is comprised of former athletes who are dedicated to using sport as the vehicle to promote positive social change.
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If you’re interested in joining a community of professionals who love sport and social justice, check out these ways to join our team.
Our Internship Program allows students and individuals from any academic discipline the ability to gain hands-on experience working on Center projects. We welcome both undergraduate and graduate students, as well adults who have an interest in sport, social justice, education, and healthy development to apply for the internship program.Apply Now
Depending on areas of expertise, Training Consultants will plan, deliver and debrief high quality trainings to a wide range of service populations including: high school students, school administrators, teachers and parents in our signature programs.Apply Now