Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Gaining the Competitive Advantage: How Internet Can Foster Future Athletes
Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Former Olympian and Internet Essentials spokesperson, is helping to inspire and prepare the next generation of champions.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee knows first-hand the impact that female Olympians can have on future generations. As a young girl, she started training for track and field events after watching a movie on famous Olympian Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Joyner-Kersee went on to break records and win hearts, becoming the first African American woman to win an Olympic medal in the long jump and the first woman to score 7,000 points in the heptathlon. In 2000, Joyner-Kersee was named Sports Illustrated’s Greatest Female Athlete of the 20th Century – one spot ahead of her hero Zaharias.
An image can be a powerful tool. Just as Joyner-Kersee was motivated by the picture of an inspiring female athlete on screen, today’s young athletes and fans can watch their role models compete right on their mobile devices. This rang true at the 2016 Olympic Games, where extraordinary performances by U.S. female athletes captivated millions. Comcast NBCUniversal was there to capture these historic moments, streaming an unprecedented 4,500 hours of Olympic coverage on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC sports app.
The moments were priceless, and all you needed was an internet connection to watch Simone Manuel become the first African American woman to win an individual event in Olympic swimming, Allyson Felix become the most decorated female track and field Olympian of all time, and Simone Biles win four gold medals in gymnastics. These amazing Olympians shared more about their journeys through behind-the-scenes looks at their lives, and you could connect with them like never before through social media.
Younger generations are consuming more content online than any generation, and the Olympics was proof of that. Viewers streamed 3.3 billion minutes of total coverage from Rio, nearly double the combined number from Sochi and London. Yet, according to the American Community Survey, 25% of Americans do not have a high-speed internet connection. What’s more, for households with incomes less than $25,000, the broadband adoption rate drops to 49%.
“Young women who do not have access to the internet are missing out on a lot of possibilities, and the potential to imagine ‘what if I could’,” said Joyner-Kersee. “Sometimes if we don’t see it, we don’t believe that we can achieve it.”
That’s why Joyner-Kersee signed on as the new spokesperson for Internet Essentials, Comcast’s high-speed internet adoption program for low-income families. Just three days after Rio’s closing ceremonies, she joined Comcast in Chicago to kick off a multi-city tour celebrating Internet Essentials’ sixth back-to-school season. At the event, David L. Cohen, Comcast Corporation Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, announced that Internet Essentials has now connected 3 million low-income Americans to low-cost, high-speed internet service at home. A majority of Internet Essentials’ customers are diverse—over 75% are people of color, and over 60% are women.
“Having the internet allows youth to research and learn more about Olympics athletes, or learn about an Olympic event that they aren’t familiar with,” said Joyner-Kersee. “Through researching background stories of Olympians, young women can start to see similarities, and realize that if they work hard enough, they can achieve great things, as well.”
Joyner-Kersee has dedicated her post-Olympic career to improving the lives of future generations. She established the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation in 1988, which provides youth, adults, and families with the resources to improve their quality of life. In recognizing the important role that the internet plays in giving people a chance at a better life, she saw this partnership with Comcast as an essential part of her mission. Through Internet Essentials, Comcast hopes to ensure that the growing number of diverse Americans are not left out of the digital landscape and can experience events such as the Olympics in unparalleled ways.
“Broadband adoption rates are materially lower in low-income populations, but they are also materially lower for diverse communities, and so the adverse impact of the digital divide is falling disproportionately on diverse communities,” Cohen explained. “The internet is this transformative technology that has the potential to equalize access to education, to healthcare, to vocational opportunities, and to news, information, and entertainment, and the Olympics is the perfect example of the news information and entertainment bucket. If you have access to the internet, you could have an unrivaled experience in viewing the Olympics.”
The U.S. Olympics Committee aims to build a diverse group of strong role models to inspire the next generation of Olympic athletes, and internet access has become an important part of that process. Joyner-Kersee is a true American hero. Because of her hard-earned accomplishments, she feels responsible to give back to the community she came from and thank the people who helped her find her success.
“My advice to young girls who want to compete in the Olympics today would be to always be thankful for, and never forget, the people who helped them get to where they are today,” she shared with a smile.