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Glanville sets course to bring social change

Former MLB outfielder to teach class on sports, social justice at University of Pennsylvania
MLB.com

Doug Glanville was the first-round Draft pick of the Cubs in 1991 and went on to have a nine-year Major League career that included stints with the Phillies, Rangers and Cubs. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with an engineering degree. Since retiring, he's worked for ESPN and written for a variety of prestigious publications.

Beginning next month, he'll be teaching a class on "Communication, Sports and Social Justice" at Penn's Annenberg School for Communication.

Doug Glanville was the first-round Draft pick of the Cubs in 1991 and went on to have a nine-year Major League career that included stints with the Phillies, Rangers and Cubs. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with an engineering degree. Since retiring, he's worked for ESPN and written for a variety of prestigious publications.

Beginning next month, he'll be teaching a class on "Communication, Sports and Social Justice" at Penn's Annenberg School for Communication.

Glanville, who is African-American, developed the concept for the course guided by his own experiences with racial profiling.

Four years ago, he was shoveling snow from the driveway of his Hartford, Conn., home. A passing policeman stopped. "So, are you trying to make a few extra bucks, shoveling people's driveways around here?" he asked.

Two years later, while on assignment as an analyst with ESPN, Glanville and a white colleague landed late one night at Los Angeles International Airport. His co-worker jumped into a cab. When Glanville got to the front of the line, he was told: "Take the bus. It's $19."

He chose to treat those experiences as teachable moments. In both cases he got involved, meeting with legislators and lawmakers, doing the research and working to address the issue. Now he's taking it one step further.

"I want to provide a real-time experience," he explained. "History is important, but I also want the students to respond to, 'Hey, did you see this tweet today?' It's going to have a lot of social media components. We're going to look at headlines, crafting, messaging. A lot of that is empirical because I learned a lot from the two real experiences I had where I saw it going from doing the research, writing something about it, engaging, and then, on the back end, policy shift."

After his employment with ESPN ended a year ago, the 47-year-old began to think about what he might do next. Social justice has long been important to him; his father immigrated from Trinidad and Tobago and went on to become an eminent psychologist, while his mother was a prominent education reformer from the South.

Glanville has been a guest lecturer at Duke, given a TEDx Talk in Atlanta, written for The New York Times and The Atlantic and had numerous speaking engagements on the subject.

"I kind of realized, just looking at what I'd been working on at ESPN, doing a lot of the global games, Jackie Robinson Day, going to Cuba, I've always been really passionate about this space, about the diversity of people. The anthropology of the game, almost," he explained. "Let me just empty the notebook. And it just came together."

He e-mailed his concept to several schools, and Penn responded quickly. Dr. Amy Jordan, assistant dean at the Annenberg School, invited him to teach a class. That went well, and now he'll be responsible for a once-a-week, three-hour course that will run into May.

Broadly speaking, he'll examine the history of social justice in sport and current events, and then look at the most effective methods of communication that can bring about positive change.

"I'm going to throw the kitchen sink at it," he said. "Obviously, baseball is my bread-and-butter, but I want to have something for everyone."

The overarching theme will be developing effective strategies to address social issues and bring about positive change. Based on his own experiences, he knows it can be done.

In Connecticut, Glanville was appointed to the police council and civil rights commission, and Los Angeles launched an undercover operation to determine if the issue was systemic and put a strict, comprehensive policy into effect. In both instances, steps were taken to address racial profiling due to Glanville's work with the appropriate officials.

"It's about giving people a chance to take a deep breath," he said. "The speed of data now is so electric. I'm hoping to bring out the power of the deep breath and getting perspective and getting information. I find that a lot of time, people want to take sides. Yet there's so much space in there that's collaborative and collective and in common that can drive the solution.

"This is really the slow work that's part of making change. It's not necessarily sexy. It's not expeditious. [But] I had two very positive results and learned a lot about the law and policy shifts. So I think when people see the long game, they'll see that, OK, you don't have to have a victory every five seconds. You have to define the goals of what you want to accomplish."

Glanville is excited about this chapter of his life, and also eager to see how far this idea might go.

"I hope to grow it," he said. "Maybe it starts off as a course. And maybe it evolves, to use a term I've been throwing around, into a social justice guidance counselor type of thing. I think it's larger than sports. Maybe something that's institutionalized as a resource center.

"It seems like we should have a place to go to really connect the dots of history, take deep breaths, have forums and discussions, talk to legislators and policy-makers. I just see this as something so much larger, but I'm taking my time with this. I know I have to walk before I can run."

Paul Hagen is a columnist for MLB.com.