ROBBINSVILLE, NJ — The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), the governing body for high school sports in New Jersey, has announced a first-of-its-kind partnership with the National Football League.

The organization will host a two-day, virtual diversity, bias and cultural competence workshop for football game officials. The two-day session’s goal is to increase awareness and advocacy for advancing diversity, equality and inclusion.

The workshop, held earlier this week, focused on the following:

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  • Why diversity matters — Promotes a foundation for understating the various dimensions of diversity, the value in respecting and appreciating the differences in others, and how embracing equitable and inclusive practices creates a greater sense of community, improves culture, and is the key to a competitive advantage.
  • Implicit bias and disruption — Raises self-awareness of the various forms of unconscious biases that affect our thought patterns, decision-making, and the way we see the world. The program will also discuss methods of bias disruption.
  • The art of cultural competence — Provides an exploration of how culture influences behavior, and shares methods for increasing cultural sensitivity – including effective engagement with people with varied cultural background and perspectives.

“Equality and inclusion isn’t an option at NJSIAA, it’s an essential aspect of our mission,” says Colleen Maguire, NJSIAA’s chief operating officer. “Above all, creating an accepting environment for all of our athletes will always be our top priority. We’re excited to partner with a leading organization toward accomplishing essential goals.”

Al Riveron, NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating, said the partnership with the NJSIAA was formed as part of the NFL's "ongoing commitment to creating a more inclusive community" and that the series of workshops will aim to "further educate officials on diversity, equity and inclusion."

“We look forward to having everyone engage in this topic throughout the two-day event and continue towards making sustainable changes in society,” he said.

The first workshop was facilitated by Nicole S. Smart, founder and principal of Smart EDI Solutions LLC, a consulting practice that combines data-driven approaches to support organizations in fostering diversity, equality and inclusion.