In football, calling the right play can be the difference between a catch or an interception, a touchdown or a tackle, a win or a loss. And to call the right plays, you need the right people in charge of making those calls. Amina Bulman, Chief Brand & Strategy Officer, and Andre Chambers, Chief People Officer, are the right people helping to make the right calls for the Washington Commanders.

Korn Ferry research revealed that diverse and inclusive organizations are 87% more likely to make better decisions. And Korn Ferry's research also revealed that when committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, companies score higher on measures of corporate effectiveness. After criticisms of the league's lack of diversity, the NFL is strengthening their commitment to DE&I. And sports leaders today are calling an audible and changing things up—aiming to make the rights calls going forward. The NFL’s Washington Commanders have made significant strides in hiring and developing diverse talent, creating a culture of belonging, and engaging with the diverse and vibrant community they reside in.

Korn Ferry chatted with Bulman and Chambers to learn more about their DE&I initiatives, how the team aligns with the NFL's DE&I goals, and how the team leverages its platform to address social issues and contribute to positive community impact.

Q How does the Washington Commander's DEI strategy align with the league’s initiatives and what specific steps have been taken to foster diversity and inclusion?

Amina Bulman: For us, DE&I is core to our business strategy. We think it's both the right thing to hire diverse executives, but we also think we get better outcomes as a business when we have a diverse set of leaders at the table. That infuses the work that we do both on the business side and on the sports side. We require mandatory training courses for our staff as well as offering additional professional development opportunities like bringing in speakers and offering workshops.

We want to give our staff a chance to reflect and engage on the ways that DE&I intersects with their everyday work. It's not something that's off to the side, it's embedded in what we do. It really is .... core to how we see our fundamental business strategy at every level. And D.C. is a highly diverse city. We need to make sure that we're putting on programming and events that reflect the community that we're serving. It is also the live events that we do and our community relations work. We need people who understand we are a part of the communities we serve.

Q Can you share insights into the Washington Commanders initiatives for talent development and mentorship programs for creating an inclusive culture?

Andre Chambers: For us, we've taken a very intentional approach to DE&I holistically. We thought about it in three core buckets. The first was diverse representation. What do we need to do to build the right relationships, start attracting the right talent, and better equip leaders to take more proactive steps to better reflect the diversity of the community? The second piece for us was also thinking about driving inclusive culture and behaviors. How do we create the kind of culture where the best talent feels like they can be their authentic self at work, and they feel welcomed and engaged? And the third was about our identity and values. And this is how we show up when no one's watching.

We've implemented sustainable programs and initiatives designed to drive substantial progress across various dimensions of our strategy, ensuring that our commitment to DE&I goes beyond just words and leads to impactful and meaningful outcomes.

Q In communities that are very diverse, it’s important to have that reflected in the fan base. Are the Commanders seeing their community’s diversity in the stands?

Bulman: Well, I'll invite all of you to come to a Commanders game and look around the stands because I think we very much have a fan base that looks like the D.C. area. And that's intentional. We are out in the community meeting people where they are, putting together programming that reflects the interests of the population in the area. We have an HCBU night. We do a Pride Night out. We have a Women of Washington program. We do talent development and partnerships. We travel to the communities that we want to be working with and develop programs that make sense for them.

We also always make sure that we have highly accessible tickets. Getting in for a single game can be highly affordable. We work with local community groups to make sure that we're providing access, especially to young people, who might not otherwise be able to attend an NFL game. That includes programs where we’re covering not only the cost of the ticket, but also partnering with a bus company and a local pizza company to make sure that their travel, their food, and other needs are covered, addressing other barriers that can be that can be relevant to folks not actually making it to a stadium in addition to [the ticket] price.

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Q How are the Commanders leveraging their platform to address social issues and contributing to positive community impact?

Chambers: I would say there are 2 things to call out here. The first is the Commanders organization acknowledges its role as a community asset, emphasizing the significance of the players' platform. Our players actively leverage their influence by engaging with politicians and the community to advocate for various reforms that align with their personal commitments, values, and concerns. In addition, our team is deeply committed to promoting civic engagement, particularly as it pertains to voting. One of our notable initiatives involved encouraging community members to utilize their right to vote. Whether it's organizing voter registration drives, hosting educational events, or promoting general civic awareness, our team is dedicated to fostering an active and informed community.

The Commanders recognizes its responsibility as a community asset, with players actively advocating for social issues, and a strong emphasis on community engagement, especially in promoting the importance of voting within the community. This approach underscores our commitment to positive community impact and addressing social issues.

Bulman: We've reoriented our community relations work over the past couple years to focus on service and equity. Service tends to be focused on the military community and veterans. Part of the reason that we chose the name Commanders was to pay homage not only to those who serve in the military, but also the whole broader sort of spirit of civic responsibility in the DMV region. And then the equity pillar is a lens through which we view the rest of our programming.

We think about ways that we can use our Commanders brand to draw folks into the fold, and then connect them to basic goods and services while they’re engaged with us. An example that I'll give you is a longstanding program that we run called Back to School Fair, where we invite kids and their families to the stadium for a day of fun and giveaways. They might show up because they’re excited about football, but while they’re at the event we offer dental screenings, vision screenings, and other health services. We think about using our brand to attract folks and then while they're engaged with us, we try to connect them to resources that they otherwise might not have access to.

Q What is the end goal and/or toughest challenge in moving even further in the right direction?

Bulman: There isn’t an end point. There's always more that we can do. I think the sports industry hasn’t always drawn talent from diverse sources. We've made a really concerted effort to recruit and identify talent from non-traditional pathways, and it’s something I think sports and entertainment as an industry could do more of. The industry can adapt and be more comprehensive in terms of where we source talent from and that will lead to a more diverse industry.

*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

For more information, learn more about Korn Ferry’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion capabilities.