This Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers will play in their third consecutive NFC Championship game with the goal of going to their second Super Bowl in five seasons. Excellence on the field.
Off the field, the organization is displaying another kind of excellence, literally, with the launch of its “Black Excellence” clothing line.
“Our employee resource groups – they all talk, they all meet – and they saw the amazing work that our Latino group lead got to do for the Mexico game,” said 49ers Senior Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), Christina Jefferson. “For that game, the inspiration and the Sugar Skulls that you saw everywhere on the flags and on merchandise was actually created by an internal employee…[T]he success of that work actually led to our Black Employee Resource Group saying, ‘I would love to do something similar to showcase not only our Black employees, but also Black culture and our fans.'”
The collection includes a satin jacket, a crewneck, a long sleeve t-shirt and a hat and was designed by employees in the 49ers Employee Resource Group, BUILD (Black Unity in Leadership and Development).
“It was organic,” Jefferson said. “There were certain things that we wanted to make sure existed. So I think the jacket was really important. It was really about showcasing Black culture…The hat was very important. That’s something that resonates with many different folks…[U]nder the bill of the hat, there is a Black American Heritage Flag, and that was a really important piece of the collection and it actually delayed the collection, because this was something that we really wanted to have on the inside of the hat to have that moment of education, to have that moment of pride.”
Jefferson is in her third season with the 49ers, and she came to an organization that was already an advocate for social justice and does tremendous work in the community.
“We already had a rich culture,” Jefferson said. “My job is to till the soil, to help things grow…[I]t actually leads into this collection and the mini collections that we hope to continue to have…I’m just helping show the amazing work that our employees internally can do.”
The collection is unique to the 49ers.
“To our knowledge, we’re the first ones to ever do anything like this,” Jefferson said. “I think for us, being in an organization, when I say I till the soil and help it grow, I really mean that. The building blocks were already there. Our employees, just empowering them a little bit more, showing our leadership who are already excited about the work that our employee resource groups do internally, that we can affect things externally too. Being a part of an organization again that is just so excited about it. I ran into our owner in the hallway and he was like, ‘That jacket’s amazing.’ And be able to be so prideful to say, ‘Our employees created this,’ and he was really into it. Those are the moments that matter.”
Jefferson said there are plans for second collection, while the Asian Pacific Islander ERG will be launching a collection, while the organization will also relaunch the team’s 49ers PRIDE collection.
“It is part of our DNA, it is part of who we are as an organization, these are the things that we do,” Jefferson said. “We don’t see it as separate…Everything we do is to further the team. And we all see it that way. So if we go into every day knowing that we are going to affect change and make it better for everyone to go to work, to enjoy the team, to be a fan, we’re all marching towards that goal. We’re all trying to get towards that goal. And so I think that’s what sets us apart is that we are a culture of people who understand that we’re a part of a whole.”