In what the NJSIAA is touting as a “first-of-its-kind” partnership with the NFL, the organization that oversees high school sports in New Jersey will host a two-day, virtual workshop for football game officials focusing on diversity, bias, and cultural competence.

The sessions' goals are to increase awareness and advocacy for advancing diversity, equality and inclusion, the NJSIAA said in a statement Tuesday.

“Equality and inclusion isn’t an option at NJSIAA, it’s an essential aspect of our mission,” said Colleen Maguire, NJSIAA’s chief operating officer. “Above all, creating an accepting environment for all of our athletes will always be our top priority. We’re excited to partner with a leading organization toward accomplishing essential goals.”

The workshop will consist of three categories:

Why diversity matters: Promotes a foundation for understating the various dimensions of diversity, the value in respecting and appreciating the differences in others, and how embracing equitable and inclusive practices creates a greater sense of community, improves culture, and is the key to a competitive advantage.

Implicit bias and disruption: Raises self-awareness of the various forms of unconscious biases that affect our thought patterns, decision-making, and the way we see the world. The program will also discuss methods of bias disruption.

The art of cultural competence: Provides an exploration of how culture influences behavior, and shares methods for increasing cultural sensitivity — including effective engagement with people with varied cultural background and perspectives.

“As a part of our ongoing commitment to creating a more inclusive community, we are excited to partner with the NJSIAA on a series of workshops to further educate officials on diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Al Riveron, NFL senior vice president of officiating. “We look forward to having everyone engage in this topic throughout the two-day event and continue towards making sustainable changes in society.”

The two-day session is scheduled for Sept. 22-23 and will be facilitated by Nicole S. Smart, founder and principal of Smart EDI Solutions LLC, a consulting practice that specializes in fostering diversity, equality, and inclusion.

New Jersey high school sports teams are on hiatus for two weeks, a break the NJSIAA instituted in conjunction with superintendents of school districts in the state to allow for focus on the reopening of schools in the coronavirus pandemic.

Practices for fall sports are set to resume Sept. 14. The first football games for New Jersey teams are set to kick off Oct. 2.