CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The Carolina Panthers tackled Diversity and Inclusion Tuesday at Bank of America Stadium. About 60 Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU) students were invited to participate in a panel discussion entitled “Making Strides in Diversity and Sports.”
The Panthers will partner with the Historically Black College and University(HBCU) to offer students internships and other opportunities. Building external relationships is a goal for JCSU President Clarence D. Armbrister. Last year two JCSU students received an internship with the Panthers, Armbrister wants that number to increase. He believes internships equal jobs.
“By the time you have one or two internships,” JCSU President Clarence Armbrister said. “The next time you are looking for a job - you have the experience and the background.”
Carolina Panthers President Tom Glick says this partnership makes sense. He believes the opportunites he experience as a young man helped him succeed. He wants to duplicate that to others.
“This is about being able to provide that sort of inspiration,” Carolina Panthers President Tom Glick said. “And a road map or at least the beginning of the road-map - to some great students at Johnson C. Smith University so we are delighted.”
Glick not only wants to provide an unforgettable opportunity for JCSU students but also keep diversity a priority for the organization.
“We want to constantly make sure that we are finding talent everywhere - throughout the Carolinas,” Glick said “And throughout the country that can make our organization stronger and enriched - the points of view, the experience that we have so we can do a better job for each other as teammates, for our players, for our coaches, for our fans, for our community.”
NFL executives also participated. They shared their stories of how they got where they are and what it took. Kimberly Fields has worked for the NBA and NFL. She is currently an executive with the NFL. She is glad she participated in the panel discussion.
“It gives the student an opportunity to see a wide variety of opportunities out there in sports,” NFL Senior Vice President of Partnership Development and Operations Kimberly Fields said. “And to hear directly from the people who are doing the jobs everyday. I think the only way you believe you can do something sometimes is to see it being done by people who look like you and it is fortunate that we all were able to come together today and provide that opportunity for the students at Johnson C. Smith University.”
Students left inspired and ready to move forward with their education and career.
“I learned to never give up no matter what,” JCSU Student Crystal Howard said. “Obstacles you face - you can always get there even though the path may be different - the path maybe hard, but you will always get there in the end.”
Howard is a Computer Science major. She is a junior and says JCSU teaming up with the Panthers and listening to other executives has given her options.
“I never thought I would be considering going into the NFL or the NBA,” Howard said. “But there are positions out there.”
Also participating in the panel discussion was Fred Whitfield, who is Vice Chairman of the Charlotte Hornets and Troy Vincent who is NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations. Fields says diversity and inclusion come up frequently in the offices of the NFL. She thinks Panthers and JCSU on the same team will send the right message about diversity and paying it forward.
“Anything that we can do to give back,” Fields said. “To make sure we are filling the pipeline with diverse candidates and including them in programs like this and making sure that we are filling the pipeline for people who one day take my role - I am all in for it.”
The JCSU President is excited about the partnership and hopes it grows. He says by leaders from the NFL and NBA participating speaks volumes about their commitment to be inclusive.
“Diversity being a fact,” Armbrister said. “But inclusion being a choice and the fact that the Panthers and the Hornets and the NFL were here today - they were here by choice.”