NASCAR has partnered with the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), a recently formed alliance of major sports leagues, associations, media networks and educators created to promote diversity and equality through sports.
NASCAR Chairman Brian France will help steer the new initiative, established by Miami Dolphins majority owner Stephen Ross, as a founding member of the RISE Board of Directors, serving alongside the commissioners of the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB, and other top sports executives. The board will convene for its first meeting today.
"I applaud Stephen Ross for launching RISE and am honored to serve on the Board of Directors. Diversity is one of our top priorities at NASCAR and we have made tremendous strides in recent years," said France.
The partnership reinforces NASCAR's overall commitment to diversity and inclusion during what's been a strong year for the sport. The national series now feature three driver graduates of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity development program including NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Larson and pair of NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers -- Daniel Suarez and Darrell Wallace Jr. -- who are in competition for 2015 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.
In addition, more than 25 NASCAR Drive for Diversity crew member alums have pitted for national series race teams this season. On Saturday, Mike Russell, jackman for the No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing team, could become the first African-American graduate to win a national series title as Chris Buescher tries to clinch the 2015 NASCAR XFINITY Series championship.
"The NASCAR Drive for Diversity program has produced some of our sport’s top drivers and crew members, and the RISE partnership will have a tremendous impact on our continued expansion in the long-term," said France. "Perhaps most importantly, we look forward to working with all of the other major sports leagues and television networks to lead on this important social issue."
Ross' vision for RISE focuses on leveraging the power of sport -- and prominent voices across the sports landscape -- to build a "nation of understanding, respect and equality." The non-profit organization seeks to create meaningful dialogue around racial relations and timely issues, as well as educational programming that will help athletes, coaches and executives promote racial sensitivity.
LeBron James and Tom Brady are among the top tier athletes pledging support for RISE, and multiple stars appear in a national public service announcement campaign on RISEtoWin.org.
"We are pleased to have NASCAR join the unprecedented alliance of professional sports leagues and organizations, media networks, educators and athletes that have joined RISE. Together we will work to harness the unifying power of sport to advance race relations and we are grateful for their partnership and support," said Ross.