Recapping Beyond Sport United: Jon Wertheim on his interview with Luma Mufleh

Yesterday at Yankee Stadium, Sports Illustrated served as the official media sponsor for Beyond Sport United — a first-of-its-kind symposium focusing on how teams can effect social change in their communities. The event, which was supported by the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS and WNBA, brought together representatives of more than 75 professional teams from around the world, along with league officials, business and government figures and grassroots entrepreneurs to share information, ideas and positive practices.

As part of the agenda, senior writer Jon Wertheim (@jon_wertheim) conducted an on-stage interview with Luma Mufleh, who was profiled by Gary Smith (Sports Illustrated, 6/23/2008) for her work as a youth soccer coach for young war refugees living outside of Atlanta. In addition to being blown away by Mufleh’s story — which has been chronicled in the New York Times and on CNN, The Today Show, ESPN and The Early Show — Wertheim learned a lot about how she is currently drawing attention to her cause.

“She’s in this interesting place where she’s an entrepreneur, wanting to expose as many people to her idea as possible,” he says. “But she wants to build this up and give access to people without losing sighting of what the goals are.”

Mufleh’s new identity as a social entrepreneur, Wertheim says, marks a departure from who she is at heart: a coach.

“If it was up to her, she’d be on a field with her kids instead of in New York at a private equity firm raising money,” he says. “But she realizes, for better or worse, that those are the rules of engagement.”

Speaking to Mufleh wasn’t the only satisfaction Wertheim got out of the symposium. He says that hearing about the effectiveness of sports as a force of good was a welcome antidote to the current headlines on the NBA lockout and conference expansion in college football.

“People are finally realizing there’s an awful lot of powers locked into sports,” Wertheim says. “You hear about the highest echelons, but there’s an awful lot going on at the grassroots levels.”

“Cynics will say it sounds cliché, but sports really do serve as a metaphor for life and a way to unite and teach.”

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