By Publisher Cynthia L. Blandford and Christophe Barriers, iF Team Member
As Publisher and CFO of iF Magazine, I have the honor and pleasure of conducting this brief interview with Mr. Jay Roberson, Vice President for the World Games, held in Birmingham, Alabama July 7-17, 2022. It was your invitation to the Atlanta Consular Corp that brought us here to witness the Opening Ceremony and to participate in the games. The World Games is an international sports event held every four years, in the year following each Summer Olympic Games with more than thirty different sports holding over 3,600 athletes from more than one hundred countries participating.
Please share with us who Jay Roberson is and your unique background politics, sports, and community.
Thank you, so much and good morning to you Cynthia. It is truly a pleasure to be a part of International Focus (iF) Magazine Atlanta, which is an outstanding publication that highlights great people in the community. I call Atlanta my second home so glad to have you here in Birmingham for the World Games.
I have been fortunate to have been born and raised right here in Birmingham, Alabama. I received my master’s degree at the University of Alabama and worked in sports for almost twenty plus years. I have had a great background in Executive Management, Leadership and Administration serving as President of t. Birmingham Iron, as a collegiate athletics administrator, a senior executive in Division I Athletics, owner of a sports marketing/management company and serving on Birmingham City Council (2009-2018) as President Pro-Tempore. I received an athletics scholarship in football to Middle Tennessee State University in 1991 and transferred to Alabama A&M University where I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Telecommunications in 1996. I was an all-conference quarterback for the Bulldogs from 1992-1994 and received my Master of Science in Hospitality Management with a Sport Hospitality concentration in 2021 from the University of Alabama.
As an African American man to be in such a high-level leadership role as a Vice President of the World Games, it is quite impressive, and you and your team have done such an outstanding job bringing the games to Birmingham. With hundreds of countries represented, many observed the absence of African and Caribbean countries participating in the World Games. How do you imagine African and Caribbean countries participating in future World Games and what role can the African and Caribbean Consulates play to bring about awareness, sponsorships, and support to their respective countries?
Well, thank you so much for that question and back to your previous point, I do want to acknowledge other African American or minorities who are leading in these efforts with the World Games including our Chairman of the Board Jonathan Porter, who is also an Executive on Loan with Alabama Power, and Kathy Boswell, who is also a Vice President over our community relations, and others. As you stated, we have several minorities in leadership who are playing a significant role in global sporting events, so I want to make sure that I emphasize that there was inclusion and diversity in this process.
Your observations are correct that African and Caribbean countries did not have much of a presence at the World Games. The way this works is the International Federations and the countries that we are talking about in the Caribbean and Africa, they must establish their organization and their teams, and they must get the qualifications or acceptance by those International Federations to compete in those sports internationally. I would like to help with this personally to make sure that there is more inclusion within the World Games as they transcend to the Chinese city of Chengdu in 2025 and to help countries like Liberia, Senegal, Jamaica, Nigeria and other places that we know that have great athletes who compete in canoeing, flag football, gymnastics, kickboxing, archery, powerlifting, to name a few.
Many thanks Jay for the opportunity to interview you and wishing you, the World Games, and the City of Birmingham the best of luck in the games. I also want to say a special thanks to Bakari Miller, Executive Vice President, Business Development, Economic Development Partnership of Alabama for his outstanding leadership and I am more than sure that the Atlanta Consular Corp members appreciate the warm hospitality provided to all of us.