The Connect Sports Diversity Events Summit marks the first time in the history of the sports tourism industry that global destinations that embrace diversity and are actively engaged in securing room-night generating sporting events can meet with LGBTQ and other inclusion-minded sporting event organizers to present their hospitality community, venues and facilities. The movement continues in Fort Lauderdale in 2019.




Expected to be the world’s largest gathering of LGBTQ and other inclusion-minded sporting event organizers, the event is designed to provide attendees with three days of education, best-practice sharing and networking. Education session presenters and keynotes will offer insights specifically targeted to promote the development and cultivation of diversity event planning.




"We are excited to share the evolution and connect LGBTQ sport organizations to NIKE's BETRUE work in our commitment to LGBTQ athletes. Supporting moments like Connect Sports Diversity Events Summit helps continue to move the conversation forward."


-Robert Goman, Nike Senior Director of Global Retail Brand Visual Presentation



2019 Agenda

Subject to Change

Thursday, Jan. 31
3-6:30 p.m.Registration
5-6 p.m.Welcome With Patrick Higgins, Connect; and Robert Goman, Nike; and Keynote: Will Waller
6-8 p.m.Opening Reception
Friday, Feb. 1
8-9:30 a.m.Networking Breakfast
9:45-10:45 a.m.Panel 1—Raising the Bar: The Rise of Athlete Activism and the Role of Sports in Promoting Social Change
10:45-11 a.m.Break
11 a.m.-noonPanel 2—Diversity and Inclusion: Real Life Applications
12:15-1:45 p.m.Lunch and Keynote: Leiomy Maldonado
2-3:30 p.m.Marketplace Appointments
4-5 p.m.Reception
Saturday, Feb. 2
8-9:30 a.m.Networking Breakfast
10 a.m.-noonMarketplace Appointments
12:30-2 p.m.Lunch and Closing Session: Brooke Crain

2019 Speakers

Brooke Crain

Top-tier BMX racer Brooke Crain joined USA Cycling in 2009. Brooke represented the U.S. twice in the Olympic Games, where she finished eight at the 2012 London Games and fourth at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. Brooke remains an inspiration and a role model for aspiring female athletes all over the world.

Leiomy Maldonado

Leiomy Maldonado, an elite transgender artist and dancer, was featured by Nike in its BeTrue Campaign 2017. After being discovered on “America's Best Dance Crew,” Maldonado has appeared in various music videos and worked alongside artists like Rihanna, FKA Twigs, Icona Pop and Zhu. Her moves have inspired choreographers and celebrities including Beyoncé, Britney Spears and Janet Jackson. Maldonado has earned the nickname, "The Wonder Woman of Vogue."

Will Waller

Will Waller sustained a gang-related gunshot wound when he was 18, which left him permanently without the use of his legs. In 1994, Waller was introduced to wheelchair basketball. He became a member of the U.S. Paralympic team, winning bronze in 2000 and 2012 and was part of two gold medal world championship teams. Now, Waller is a member of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association Board of Directors. He has accumulated nearly 20 years of human resources experience with three Fortune 150 global organizations and is a motivational speaker.

2019 Education

Subject to Change

Friday, Feb. 1, 2019
Panel 1 | 9:45-10:45 a.m.

   Leslie Nixon, Senior Director, Community Affairs, Miami Dolphins

Join us as we provide a forum to engage attendees and discuss using diversity-focused sporting events to enrich the lives of the athletes participating beyond the competition as well as how to engage the host community and local residents. Discuss how to leverage sporting events to promote social change and serve the host community, the participating athletes and guests, and members of the community.

Panel 2 | 11 a.m.-noon

   Catherine Kelly, North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance;
   Karen Morrison, Chief Diversity Office, UCF;
   Karen Irish, Manager, Diversity and Inclusion, USOC;
   Richard WB Gray, Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion, Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau

Implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives into your event or organization takes more than words—it requires concrete steps. An effective program opens the door to greater participation at competitions and new business for CVBs and sports commissions. Learn best practices in marketing, event programming and more from three professionals who’ve successfully integrated inclusionary efforts into their organizations.



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