Breaking Down Barriers in Sports and Business – OZY

Around the world, sport plays a vital role in uniting our hearts and minds. Whether it’s soccer, football or tennis, we are riveted by the games. Yet often the battles that take place on the field, on the field or on the road can force us to think about larger societal issues. To celebrate Black History Month, today’s daily dose highlights black excellence in two predominantly white sports, pushing for expanded access and inclusion. We also take a look at those sports entrepreneurs who traded gold on the pedestal for gold in the pocket and went from sports to business.


1 – black sand surf

A trio of young black creatives, Justin “Brick” Howze, Gage Crismond and Tre’lan Michael started this surfing and arts collective amid the pandemic in August 2020 to raise awareness about being black in a predominantly white sport. Then a racist attack on Howze and Crismond at the Manhattan Beach Pier in Los Angeles last February turned them from defenders to activists. The attack underscored the beach town’s anti-black history and California’s great surf culture. But the trio took advantage of the moment, organizing a “Peace Paddle” at the scene of the incident and attracting the support of dozens of surfers from all walks of life.

2 – Gigi Lucas

If it’s hard to be black in surfing, it’s even lonelier if you’re a woman of color. But Lucas, the daughter of a Gold Coast catamaran sailor, was ‘hooked’ from the moment she tried surfing in costa rica while visiting for a friend’s wedding. Her dad mentored her, and she’s now doing the same for a generation of black female surfers through his non-profit organization, SurfearNEGRAwhich raises funds to help them go to the surf camp, and in the process diversify the sport.

3 – Nasima Akter

Only 67 percentt of Bangladeshi girls attend secondary school and about two-thirds are married before the age of 18. Akter — whose family pushed her into prostitution at the age of 7 to support themselves — decided to pursue a different future… chasing the waves of the Bay of Bengal. Now in her twenties, Akter has increasingly turned to teenage surfing born into poverty. They defy social norms and expectations every time they enter the water and on their boards.


1 – Joseph Areruya

The Rwandan went through Hell. In 2019, then aged 23, he became the first black African runner to start and finish the Paris-Roubaix, a one-day road race in France known as the “Hell of the North”. That year, Areruya was appointed African Cyclist of the Year, thanks to victorious races in Gabon, Cameroon and his native Rwanda. His country has established itself in recent years as a unlikely hub for champion riders. Areruya is the tip of Rwanda’s cycling spear.

2 – Ayesha McGowan

She is the first African-American female professional cyclist at the elite level, joining Liv Racing as a trainee on their UCI Women’s World Tour team in August 2020 – fulfilling a dream the 35-year-old had been chasing for years, while raise the names of others as an advocate for greater equity in sport. His team, A fast brown foxwho hosted “Thee Abundance Summit” for black and brown cyclists last March (and will do so again in April), continues to lead the way for others to follow in his footsteps.

3 – josh hartmann

The American son of Guyanese immigrants failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, but his time in the saddle has already been an inspiration to many. Growing up next to Brownsville, the same gritty New York neighborhood that gave birth to Mike Tyson, Hartman nearly died in a 2013 accident that left him in a coma for two weeks and later became the subject of an ESPN documentary. He still bears the scars of that fall on his face, but overcame obstacles both visible and invisible become one of America’s top track sprinters.


2 – Fabiola Molina

Triple Olympian, the Brazilian swimmer never liked the suits she had to wear during competitions. So Molina, who also loves fashion, decided to design her own swimwear, developing the now popular two-piece Brazilian “sunkini”. Today, she runs a popular swimwear brand with customers in 12 other countries around the world.

3 – Haile Gebreselassie

When he takes something, you know he’s in it for the long haul. the iconic Ethiopian long-distance runner with two Olympic gold medals and four world championships built a post-retirement business empire spanning hotels, coffee plantations, car dealerships and a movie theater. But he still finds time to run every morning at 5 a.m. He knows that the key to success often lies in everyone’s pace.

Community corner

Do you have a recommendation of other sports leaders who should be recognized for their activism both on and off the field? Share it with us at [email protected]

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OZY is a diversified, global, forward-looking media and entertainment company focused on “new and next.” OZY creates space for new perspectives and provides fresh perspectives on everything from news and culture to technology, business, learning and entertainment. / #OZY

Welcome to the new + the next!

Cathy W. Howerton