Jackie's inspiration offers 'glimmer of hope'

Amid pandemic, Dodgers Foundation CEO shares Robinson's legacy

August 28th, 2020

LOS ANGELES -- Nichol Whiteman, CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, explains the impact of as one who’s lived it.

As a high school senior, Whiteman was a Jackie Robinson scholar. Her career path weaved from Wall Street to the publishing world to nonprofit foundations that included being the VP/Western Regional Officer of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, and ultimately, to head the Dodgers’ official charity, which has directed $3.5 million to the Jackie Robinson Foundation since 1987.

And despite the unique world situation that demands Jackie Robinson Day be celebrated off the field this year, Whiteman believes that times like these make celebrating Robinson more important than ever.

“We’ve got to send the Jackie Robinson message this week, if you ask me, louder than ever,” said Whiteman, who has run the Dodgers Foundation for seven years. “I say that because, while it is about celebrating his achievements, we’ve got to be even more inspired. Because of the adversity that Jackie Robinson went through, there’s adversity we’re all being asked to go through today right now, and especially those who are in marginalized and underserved communities. It’s a tough time for those that have less. And together, if we come together and celebrate this day like no other, in my mind, we can provide a glimmer of hope for everybody.”

Granted, a month ago, when Whiteman was meeting with the 12 current Jackie Robinson scholars in New York, she wasn’t expecting this year’s events to go virtual. She was preparing to fly each scholar to Los Angeles, to participate in pregame ceremonies on Jackie Robinson Night and meet the Robinson Family, as the Dodgers do each year.

But Whiteman, whose family immigrated to New York City from Jamaica, adapted.

“Jackie Robinson Day is one day in the middle of a terrible pandemic that can be a glimmer of hope,” she said. “It’s a moment to remember the story of somebody who inspired those around him at a time when things were difficult for him and difficult for those around him. We, and especially myself as leader of the Dodgers Foundation, I have a responsibility that his message is used at times like this. We need to adapt. We need to change. To act under pressure. We need to help one another. Yes, we are working under constraints, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be there for each other. Sometimes, that’s with words. Sometimes, that’s with relief efforts.”

Whiteman entered Spelman College in Atlanta upon earning a Jackie Robinson Foundation scholarship and earned a bachelor's in economics with a minor in management and organization. She was named Spelman Class of 1998 Businesswoman of the Year, earned the 2005 LEAD Program in Business Leaders of Tomorrow Award, was honored as Woman of Inspiration Honoree by The Wave in '10 and honored by the National Urban League Young Professionals of Los Angeles in '15.

“Jackie Robinson impacted my life greatly,” Whiteman said. “I received a Jackie Robinson scholarship when I was a senior in high school that essentially gave me the opportunity to go to college. I get emotional talking about it because not only was it the financial assistance that I needed, but the mentors I needed in Sharon Robinson and Rachel Robinson and everyone affiliated with the Jackie Robinson Foundation. It was a network that gave me the push I needed and the resources. It’s a lot of the reason why I say I am who I am today and I am where I am today.

“What a great way to perpetuate Jackie Robinson’s legacy by telling my story. Every single day, I’m fortunate. Sometimes it’s a little eerie and sometimes I feel like there’s some pressure. I use it to lead with a theme of teamwork the way that Jackie did, to lead over adversity the way Jackie did and to lead by example the way that Jackie did.”