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Events - 11.13.2023

DEI Series | Diversity in Sports

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program Series | Diversity in Sports


11.13.2023 (Mon.)


06:00 PM - 08:30 PM


JAPAN HOUSE Salon, Level 5



Over the past year, the JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles Foundation has partnered with MUFG Bank, Ltd. to host a program series exploring the timely themes of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) and how they are evolving in many industries and communities, including business, non-profit, government, food culture, and entertainment. This year, we have featured the changing world of entertainment in March, and hosted a special evening with Hollywood legend George Takei in August.

This fall, we invited guests to an all-star conversation on how D.E.I. is evolving in the dynamic world of sports. How are diverse athletes forging new paths in sports, at home and around the world? What are the new challenges — and opportunities — of an athletic landscape where sports, entertainment, and public advocacy increasingly overlap? Particularly in the run-up to Los Angeles’ next role as the host of the 2028 Summer Olympics, this event was an invaluable chance to get candid insights from leading sports experts and accomplished Olympic athletes themselves.

The evening was moderated by Renata Simril, President and CEO of the LA84 Foundation, which supports youth sport programs and public education and is renowned for its advocacy of diversity in athletics. In conversation with Ms. Simril were sports stars such as Maia Shibutani, a two-time Olympic ice skating medalist, Jun Endo, a record-breaking soccer player with Angel City FC. Will Ireton, Performance Operations Manager of Los Angeles Dodgers and former interpreter for Kenta Maeda, also participated from the perspective of someone supporting the athletes. Over the course of this candid talk, the panelists reflected on how they came from diverse backgrounds and overcame challenges to forge inspiring careers through sport, and how to make the literal “playing field” of sports more inclusive and diverse today. After a lively panel discussion, guests were invited to join an intimate reception for networking and made new connections.

Speakers and audience at the “DEI Series | Diversity in Sports”
Speakers on stage at the “DEI Series | Diversity in Sports” event
The panel discussion during “DEI Series | Diversity in Sports”
Speakers during the panel discussion at the “DEI Series | Diversity in Sports” event
The guests and food served during the reception of “DEI Series | Diversity in Sports”

Program Schedule

  • 6:00 PM – 6:15 PM | Welcoming Remarks
    • Yuko Kaifu
      President of JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles
    • Consul General Kenko Sone
      Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles
    • Masatoshi Komoriya
      Executive Chairman of the Board,
      MUFG Americas Holdings Corporation
  • 6:15 PM – 7:30 PM | Panel Discussion (Q & A)
  • 7:30 PM – 7:45 PM | Interval
  • 7:45 PM – 8:30 PM | Networking & Reception


Renata Simril
President & CEO, LA84 Foundation | President, Play Equity Fund
Renata Simril is the President & CEO of the LA84 Foundation, the youth-serving organization committed to transforming the lives of kids across Southern California through sports and play programs, as well as through ongoing investments in infrastructure, research and education as a legacy of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
Read more.

Since her appointment in 2016, she has elevated the LA84 Foundation into a national leader in the role that sports have in positive youth development. She has expanded the Foundation’s mission in vital ways by focusing its work on supporting childhood health, the socio-emotional development of young people and community well-being.

Simril has brought new resources to communities to remove barriers to access to sports and play for children by collaborating with corporate partners, sports organizations, civic institutions and philanthropy. Inspired by many organizations working to improve the lives of youth, Simril founded the play equity movement to drive meaningful change. This gave rise to the Play Equity Fund – the LA84 Foundation’s charitable partner. The organization builds opportunities for kids from all backgrounds to play, works to create systems change, and increases awareness about how issues of access significantly impact future generations.

Simril has a longstanding commitment to leadership and service, with more than 25 years of diverse experience – including a background in government, business, pro sports, and publishing. Prior to the LA84 Foundation, Simril served as Senior Vice President & Chief of Staff to the Publisher of the Los Angeles Times, overseeing 900 staff members. Previously she was also the Senior Vice President of External Affairs for the Los Angeles Dodgers, with responsibilities that included the team’s community affairs, government relations and its charitable foundation. For over a decade, Simril worked in mixed-use real estate development with Jones Lang LaSalle, Forest City Development and LCOR, Inc.

As Deputy Mayor for Economic Development & Housing in the Hahn Administration, she worked to expand rental, affordable housing and economic policies. As Development Deputy to LA City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, Simril helped steward over $5 billion to rebuild communities in South Los Angeles after the 1992 civil unrest. She began her career in the U.S. Army, serving as a Military Police Officer in Germany and domestically.

In 2022, Simril was appointed to Governor Gavin Newsom’s Advisory Council on Physical Fitness and Mental Well-Being, a statewide effort to enact policy and funding priorities to ensure healthy Californians of all ages. As well as serving as an advisor to national task forces, boards and commissions, Simril’s writing has appeared in Authority Magazine,, Forbes, the Los Angeles Business Journal, the Los Angeles Daily News and The Sacramento Bee. Simril recently served as a Regents’ Lecturer in the UCLA Department of Sociology, a program where leaders from outside of academics enrich instruction. She also spoke to the Board of Councilors at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.

Simril was instrumental in forging a historic collaboration with the 12 pro sports teams in Southern California and the Play Equity Fund to form The Alliance, which is advancing workforce development, leadership and social justice with local students. She developed the Super Bowl LVI Legacy Program, “Champions Live Here” – providing funds for a mobile vehicle to bring healthy activities to communities without parks – in addition to support for 56 nonprofits. As a legacy of the 2023 College Football Championship, Simril created the “Champions Educate Here” program, which awarded 46 local educators who utilize play to help students recover from the effects of the pandemic with up to $20,000.

A third generation Angeleno who grew up in Carson, Simril serves on the boards of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission, the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, and the ESPN Return to Play Advisory Council. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from Loyola Marymount University and a Master’s in Real Estate Development from USC. Simril lives in Studio City with her husband and two sons.


Maia Shibutani
Olympic, Ice Dancer
Maia Shibutani is a two-time Olympic medalist, writer, producer, speaker, and consultant. In 2018, she and her brother, Alex Shibutani, made Olympic history by becoming the first ice dancers of Asian descent and the first Ice Dance team of color to medal at the Winter Olympic Games. Earlier this year, the duo was inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame.
Read more.

Maia is on the Advisory Council for AWE (Asian Women Empowered) and is the inaugural Winter Olympic Athlete Representative of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation NextGen Program. She has served as a Sports Envoy for the U.S. State Department since 2017. In that role, she promotes cross-cultural understanding and empowers the next generation of leaders through diplomacy.

Her third children’s book, Amazing: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders Who Inspire Us All was released on April 18th, 2023.

Jun Endo
Angel City, Soccer Player
Jun Endo is a Japanese professional women's soccer player known for her role as a forward for Angel City FC, a National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) club located in Los Angeles. She is also a member of Nadeshiko Japan, the Japan women's national team, and was part of the 23-player squad that recently competed in the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023.
Read more.

Born in Shirakawa, Fukushima Prefecture, Jun is the youngest of four children and grew up in a soccer-loving family. All of her siblings also play soccer and her father is a soccer coach. When Jun was 10 years old, the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami struck her hometown of Fukushima. Her family survived and stayed in the region, but due to safety regulations Jun couldn’t play soccer outdoors for months after the disaster. Her dedication to the sport meant she continued practicing indoors and honed her signature skills in dribbling and control over the ball. Despite adversity, Jun built her career and first played for the Japan U-17 national team at the 2016 World Cup; she went on to several championships and was often the youngest player on her squad. In 2019, she won the Asia Football Confederation's Women's Club Championship with Tokyo Verdy Beleza.

Will Ireton
LA Dodgers Performance Operations Manager
Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan until the age of 15, William Augustine Ireton grew up with a 2nd generation Japanese American father and 1st generation Filipino mother. Aspiring to become a professional baseball player, he moved to Honolulu, Hawai’i and attended Mid-Pacific Institute. After attending Occidental College and graduating from Menlo College in California with a Bachelor of Science in international business, ...  Read more.

Will played professionally for WBC Team Philippines in the World Baseball Classic Qualifying Tournament (2012) and with the Texas Rangers organization (2013).

After his stints professionally, he took internship positions with the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees to obtain a first-hand view of baseball operations. Prior to joining the Dodgers, Will served as general manager for WBC Team Philippines in 2015. He was tasked to create a team with Filipino American Minor League players living in the United States and Filipino prospects residing in the Philippines.

Will initially joined the Los Angeles Dodgers as Kenta Maeda’s interpreter (2016-2018). Being exposed to how the Dodgers operate, he became a development coach for the Dodgers’ 3A affiliate in Oklahoma City (2019), where he learned to apply technology and data into the day-to-day operations within the team, as well as coaching first base. He was promoted to the Major League team as Performance Operations Coordinator (2020-2021) operating in a similar capacity but at the Major League level.

Will enters his 8th year in the organization and 2nd year in his current role as Performance Operations Manager. He manages the daily processes within the Major League team during the season and oversees projects that require cross-departmental collaboration during the offseason. The position has allowed him to be involved in both run production and run prevention, as well as scouting domestically and internationally.

Currently living in Los Angeles, Will travels with the team during the season and to Japan during the offseason.

Presented by

JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles Foundation Logo

Sponsored by

MUFG Union Bank, N.A. Logo

Supported by

JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles & Consulate General of Japan Los Angeles logos

Reception supported by

JETRO Los Angeles logo

Sake provided by

Sake High! logo
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