LOS ANGELES -- On the occasion of Rachel Robinson’s 100th birthday -- which she shared with the 92nd annual All-Star Game on Tuesday -- Sony made a generous contribution in support of the life’s work of Jackie Robinson’s widow.
San Diego Studio -- the PlayStation Studios’ development team that produces Major League Baseball’s sole video game series, MLB The Show -- donated more than $875,000 to the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which since Rachel founded it in 1973 has administered one of the nation’s premier scholarship and professional development programs for college students from a minority background.
Ramone Russell, Sony Interactive’s communications and brand strategist for product development, presented the large check at PLAY BALL Park to Nichol Whiteman, CEO of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation and a JRF alumna herself, who accepted it on the foundation’s behalf.
With the funding, San Diego Studio created scholarships within the JRF specifically for young adults who are pursuing careers in the video game industry. During the summer of their junior year, the company’s JRF scholars will take part in paid internships at their studio, receiving hands-on training so that they will be better positioned to break into the business after they graduate.
“This is a very unique partnership,” Whiteman said, “and these are the types of unique, authentic partnerships that are so helpful to ensure that Black and Brown youth have access and the opportunity that they need. It is important to write a check, absolutely important to write a check, but if you can have a hands-on recurring partnership with additional arms and legs the way that this one does, I think that’s just really special.”
The money stemmed from a two-pronged effort from Sony. First, the company sold collector’s editions of the 2021 and ’22 editions of MLB The Show, and donated $1 to the JR Foundation for every copy purchased. Then, on Jackie Robinson Day on April 15, the studio created a special $5 JRD pack -- which contained a Jackie Robinson Foundation bat skin, a Jackie Robinson card and a Jackie Robinson profile icon in the game -- and donated 100 percent of those proceeds to the JR Foundation.
“Our fans let us know that they would like to contribute to this wonderful initiative, and so that’s how the check got as high as it is,” Russell said. “It was just a way that we created for our fans to join us in this donation with the JRF.”
After her time as a JRF scholar, Whiteman’s first foray into philanthropy came in a job with the Jackie Robinson Foundation as a vice president of the Western Region. She likes to say that she “got my doctoral degree” doing that work in the community.
With that experience helping the Robinson family in their mission, Whiteman said that the networking and professional development the foundation provided made a seminal difference in her reaching the heights that she has in her career. With Sony’s support, that opportunity will now be afforded to so many more like her.
“I know that it is why I am where I am today,” Whiteman said. “The manner in which that has happened for me, it has happened for hundreds of other scholars year over year over year. The Jackie Robinson Foundation hands down has the highest college graduation rate of any scholarship for minority students in the country.
“For The Show to essentially pick the Jackie Robinson Foundation and implement Jackie Robinson into the game literally in this manner is a great way to perpetuate his legacy. And then to connect that back to supporting scholarships for young people, who might one day work in this industry or work for them -- it’s pretty priceless.”