Three years ago, global sports brand PUMA launched the #REFORM Platform with the aim of providing activists from the worlds of sports, music and entertainment support in championing causes and encouraging conversations around issues such as universal equality and criminal justice reform.
As part of our series of conversations with partners in the United Soccer League’s Forever Proud project, we spoke with Maura Everett, who has been the Senior Strategist for #REFORM, to get her insights into why the organization decided to pursue this new initiative, which has brought new perspectives forward as more prominent athletes and artists speak out against discrimination and in the name of equality.
Q: The PUMA #REFORM platform was inspired by the “Silent Gesture” of Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Why do you think that moment still resonates so strongly?
Maura Everett: Athletes and artists have always led the way in speaking out on social injustices and Tommie’s call for universal equality was him using his platform to shine a light on the inequalities back home in the United States. Unfortunately, not much has changed since Tommie’s gesture but what we’ve seen with the evolution of social media is that it’s not just athletes and artists telling their truths and calling out discriminatory and racist actions, it’s anyone with a smartphone. As a brand we have a responsibility to support our athletes and ambassadors in amplifying their voices when they speak out on social issues. Our #REFORM platform honors Tommie’s aspiration for universal equality by calling for meaningful change in ending systemic racism and championing LGBTQ+ rights and gender equality.
Q: How did your partnership with the Trevor Project start and how was #REFORM the locker room developed?
ME: One of the pillars of our #REFORM platform is to advocate for LGBTQ+ equal rights and provide support to LGBTQ+ communities. When looking to support and partner with an organization, we didn’t have to look far because one of our ambassadors, Cara Delevingne, was already working closely with the Trevor Project.
The work that the Trevor Project does to help with suicide prevention and crisis intervention for the LGBTQ+ youth community is critical, and we wanted to support their mission.
When brainstorming how we could have meaningful impact with the Trevor Project, we grounded our discussions around sport, which led us to talking about inclusivity in the locker room and how we could help foster positive mental health outcomes for young LGBTQ+ athletes.
Q: Why is this the right time for such an effort?
ME: This platform was conceived before the global pandemic, but it’s more important now than ever to focus on our mental health and to help support communities that are most vulnerable. Participating in sports has proven to have a positive outcome on mental health and we want to ensure that everyone who wants to play has the right to play; and to be their authentic self on and off the field.
Q: What advice might you have for other brands wanting to celebrate Pride Month?
ME: It’s great if a company wants to suport the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month, but at PUMA we believe in supporting and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community year-round. Throughout the year, we support local and global organizations like BAGLY, a Boston based youth-led, adult-supported social support organization committed to providing services for the LGBTQ+ youth community, and Football v Homophobia, the UK-based football charity that exists to challenge discrimination based on sexual orientation gender identity and expression at all levels of football.
It’s important to invest in the community and make a meaningful impact. We don’t see ourselves as just a financial supporter, we are a dedicated partner working in tandem with great organizations to create change.