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About Game Changer

Embrace Founder, Sean Sheppard had seen enough unnecessary violence and loss of life between members of the community and those sworn to protect and serve the community.  Something needed to be done, not just said. “What I saw on the news and subsequent chatter on social media moved me.  People along racial and socio-economic lines were dug in on their positions, but things are rarely as simple as black and white,” said Sheppard.

Out of necessity, Game Changer was born, a model rooted in creating a safe space for consistent, moderated, 2-way dialogue to occur between members of the community, law enforcement and members of the judicial system in a common ground setting: a sports/entertainment environment.  “Think about it: when do people from all walks of life come together to have a good time together? Sporting events and music concerts.  Sports and entertainment have always been trend setters in our society when it comes to social issues.  We need them to influence our society in a positive way more than ever.”

Sheppard began calling upon his life-long experiences of growing up in multi-ethnic environments, playing sports and coaching sports to create a model that utilized sports as a common denominator that would lead to consistent exposure and communication among lay people like it does among athletes, coaches.  “Most people in Columbus, Ohio are Buckeye fans, regardless of race, religion, gender identity or political affiliation,” said Sheppard, the former Director of Strength and Conditioning for Olympic Sports at The Ohio State University. “Why not start with something we have in common, something we can smile about together across the board?”

Sean was fortunate enough to have a relationship with San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, who happens to be an Ohio State University alumnus and rabid Buckeye fan.  “She got it right away,” explained Sheppard. “She immediately understood how powerful sports can be when it comes to bringing people together. Her input and outreach to the San Diego Police Officers Association, and their subsequent input, helped create a model we all believe should be implemented nationally.”

The Game Changer model calls upon the NCAA, NFL, NBA, MLB, MLS, WNBA, NASCAR, UFC and major artists to allow for moderated focus groups (20-30 per month in each city) to occur at their arena, 3 hours before game, competition or concert time. The moderated focus groups are meant to allow members of the community, members of law enforcement, elected officials and members of the judicial system to discuss the issues that exist between and among them.  The time is designed to give everyone in attendance the opportunity to be heard and listened to in a safe space.  The focus groups are meant to educate, generate data on perspectives and changes in perspective with an end goal of bringing about changes in behavior, neighborhood watch, policy, procedure and law. 

Participants  (16 years old and up) from all walks of life are selected through a process that runs through local elected officials and the police department.  In order to participate as a member of the community, one must go through their local elected official or police department.  (Exceptions are made for local college athletes, professional athletes and professional entertainers.)

Once each focus group concludes, all participants adjourn to take in the sporting/entertainment event together in order to spend much needed social/human bonding time together, time that is routinely absent from a typical citizen or police officer’s life routine.  Game time is meant to allow for the participants to see each other in a human light, as members of one team routing for a common denominator: the home team.


·        Race relations

·        Revenue

·        Mental health

·        War on drugs

·        Respect

·        Neighborhood watch

·        Judicial system/indictments

·        Internal investigations

·        Militarization/Ex-military pool of applicants

·        Misconceptions

·        Positive and negative experiences

·        Personal action steps



Invitations are electronically sent out to a total of 10 community members: 5 by law enforcement, 5 by elected officials. 10 police officers are invited, selected by the Police Officers Association (20 people total). 

**Invitation includes request to complete and return pre-event, anonymous questionnaire via survey planet that measures perceptions/beliefs regarding police/justice system/community relations. 


·         All participants arrive 3 hours before start of game. (Uber, public transportation, personal transportation).

·         Beverages and food arrive 3 hours before start of game

·         Greeting and intro by co-moderators. Focus group guidelines explained (respectful dialogue, 1 person speaking at a time etc.). Around the room introductions

·         Hard copy pre-questionnaire is completed by all participants who didn’t do so electronically. Waiver/release forms signed (permission to be photographed and video recorded during focus group session and game).

·         Focus group discussion takes place over the next 2.5 hours. Restroom breaks in 45-minute increments. Participants able to eat and drink at their leisure. (photos and video).

·         15 minutes before game time, focus group concludes, post event electronic questionnaire survey planet instructions given, all participants adjourn to their game seats.  Participants asked to sit strategically (officer, community member, officer, community member).

·         All participants agree to remain at game through 5th inning and/or halftime. Photos/video taken during the game.

·         Within 5 business days, all post event surveys should be completed with pre and post data collected and processed by Cal State Fullerton.


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