Destigmatizing Disability & Accelerating the Growth of the Paralympic Movement
Chief Partnership Officer
- Apr 28, 2023
We’ve all got differences. Our differences are what make us unique—who we are as individuals. And, sometimes, our differences lead to our purpose.
Last week, I was lucky to be part of the Sports Business Journal’s ALL IN Conference for DEI where I serve as an Advisory Board member. I had the privilege to elevate two important voices in the disability community—Ezra Frech, Team USA Paralympian, and his father Clayton Frech, CEO and Founder of Angel City Sports.
At eight, Ezra attended his first track meet. At 11, he watched the 2016 Rio Paralympics and knew that being a Paralympic athlete was his calling. His original dream came true when he competed in the 2021 Tokyo Paralympic Games, but he doesn’t plan to stop there.
Ezra is both a Paralympic athlete and a disability advocate. While our entire conversation could have been on Ezra’s aspirations on the track, we used this conversation to focus on his mission to use sport as a platform to accelerate awareness and destigmatize disability.
You can already see this work through Angel City Sports – the nonprofit he and his dad founded to spark an adaptive sports movement. The organization trains athletes, loans equipment, hosts the Angel City Games, an annual Paralympic-style competition, and, most importantly, makes adaptive sports possible and accessible.
An opportunity to change the conversation around disability in the United States (and globally) lies ahead of us. The 2028 Paralympic Games will be held in Los Angeles, California. It is a perfect way to open, accelerate, and reframe the conversation surrounding disability. The athletes competing, brands activating, and The Games themselves all play a role in this.
While Ezra has his eyes set on a record-breaking 3 gold medals, Clayton’s vision is to change the narrative around adaptive sports: “My dream after LA28 would be that every one of the 50 million Americans living with a physical disability, knew sport was possible…I think that's the moment for '28 is to raise the awareness through athletes, through brands, through The Games themselves, so everyone knows sport is possible.”
While LA28 provides an incredible platform for Ezra to dominate on the track (I’m sure he will) and catapult disability awareness into the homes of millions watching, one man cannot do this alone. As Clayton mentioned, the movement needs investment and visibility, now! That’s where brands, and the people who influence them, come in.
This conversation with Clayton and Ezra is an invitation for brands to enter the disability space. Brands have an opportunity to expose new audiences to disability and challenge the harmful narratives we’ve grown accustomed to. At GMR Marketing, we work to create purposeful, value-based partnerships. We pair brands with culturally relevant and important moments, allowing them to make a real difference. This work is both a privilege and a responsibility. We can create influence in the corporate space. It’s time for brands to rethink the conversation around disability and leverage their platforms for this purpose.
As I said during my conversation with Ezra and Clayton: “I promise you, if you make an investment in the disability and Paralympic and adaptive sports space today, you'll be part of that change in 2028. You'll have looked back at that decision now with a lot of pride because guys like this are going to change the conversation, are changing the conversation, and fundamentally will change inclusivity around the disability and adaptive sports space.” Don’t hesitate to reach out to GMR if you’d like to share in this responsibility.