A Gathering to Discuss Human Rights & Sports During the Biggest Event of the Year.
The National Center for Civil and Human Rights’ updated Breaking Barriers: Sports for Change exhibition examines the multiple intersections of human rights and sports throughout time. This program will feature a star-studded panel of activists and athletes discussing a range of global rights issues related to sports, particularly those that affect women and the LGBTQ community.


  • 5:00—6:30 PM: Panel: Quarterbacking Equity: The Role of Sports in LGBTQ Rights

    Minky Worden, Director of Global Initiatives at Human Rights Watch, will moderate a panel with representatives from Georgia Equality and Athlete Ally. The panelists will share their thoughts on how sports can advance social change.

  • 6:30 PM: Breaking Barriers Launch Reception
    Meet and greet with athletes and activists with a photo opportunity.

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Layshia Clarendon

Layshia is a professional basketball player for the Connecticut Sun of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). She was a member of the 2018 FIBA World Cup Championship for Team USA and is an outspoken advocate for the LGBT community and survivors of sexual assault.


Phaidra Knight

Phaidra Knight was born and raised in the small rural town of Irwinton, Georgia. It was there where she learned the core values of dedication, commitment, hard work, and discipline – qualities that served her well in a highly-decorated rugby career that began in 1997 at the end of her first year as a law student. Knight’s unswerving commitment to rugby continues to this day, as a coach, USA Rugby Board member, TV analyst, and judicial officer.


Pat Manuel

An American professional boxer, in 2018, Pat Manuel became the first transgender boxer in the history of the United States to have a professional fight. Manuel is a five-time USA female national amateur boxing champion. He fought his last fight as a woman in 2012 against Tiara Brown. His next bout was after he transitioned, where he took on Adan Ochoa in 2016 and won by unanimous decision. Manuel went on to make his professional debut in December 2018.


Michael Sam

A University of Missouri football star primed for an early round pick in the 2014 NFL draft, Michael’s talents on the field were nearly sidelined when he came out as gay during an ESPN interview. While his revelation sent shockwaves through the sports world and resulted in the last round pick by the St. Louis Rams, Michael emerged as a powerful and prominent icon for inclusion, a pioneer for the LGBTQ community, and an exemplar of the resilience and tenacity of the human spirit. Among his many career accolades, Michael was awarded ESPN’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2014 ESPY’s. He is currently an NFL free agent.

Revered for his unwavering courage, graciousness, and fortitude, Michael inspires with his personal journey of triumph over intense adversity. Authentic and heartfelt on the stage, his candor empowers audiences to overcome their own impediments to self-truth, love, and acceptance.


Moderator: Minky Worden

As Human Rights Watch’s Director of Global Initiatives, Minky Worden develops and implements international outreach and advocacy campaigns. She previously served as Human Rights Watch’s Media Director, working with the world’s journalists to help them cover crises, wars, human rights abuses and political developments in some 90 countries worldwide.