Sports Meets Art for Social Change!

NBA Bubble athletes sporting ping pong bats in 2020 sent messages of social change and solidarity not through words, for words often get lost in translation, but through art. And the lady behind this whirlwind of an idea is Jasmine Maietta, a first generation Indian American and the Founder of round21, a company that is slowly changing the way we perceive sports equipment. 

Through her work at Reebok, Under Armor and Peloton among others, Maietta, a professional basketball player herself recognized the power of art, used hitherto on sneakers and hoodies as a cultural theme, as a ‘voice bringing messages and symbolism to subjects that were really meaningful to a generation and need to be expressed but are hard to put in words.’ She chose to reinvent the equipment they used albeit a blank canvas.

Sports is an equalizer, and it brings people from different status, race or position outside the arena, together. 

So is Art. 

For Maietta it is a ‘voice and an identity core to every human. If you feel good about your identity, you naturally have more to offer.’ 

Given her good acumen, she considered her background and knowledge of the sports industry and unlocked sports equipment as a ‘new canvas for self-expression’.

And so, in 2018, round21 was conceived. ‘round’ for a sense of wholeness and community, ‘2’ for collaboration and ‘1’ for the individual. 

While talking about her family and childhood, two important cornerstones of her life that shaped round21, she says, “My background has given me a unique sense of the world. Coming from an immigrant family and many travels to India and Spain, while living in America gave me a sense of how diverse the world is. This empathy for the world has inspired me to bring art into my sport. Reflecting on that unique identity through symbolism, is powerful.” 

Once the idea set in, ping pong and basketball hoops seemed to be the obvious first choice for her. She says, “Growing up, I played a lot of ping-pong with my dad at home or at the Gurudwara. To have the ability to bring something so familiar to me to life, through art just felt like the right start,” she says.

Of course, it’s the common factor between NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB and locker room conversations as well. Expanding into other sport categories is on the horizon, for her. 

With complete understanding of the canvas of her products, Maietta recognizes the need for her art to be impactful. “We look for artists who have a good reputation in the market and can bring old ideas to life in a simple way. We want to be known for filling people with positivity and joy through our art. Our artists work on themes that are relevant to their community and tell stories that inspire them,” she says. 

Sure enough, her ideas have struck a chord with her multicultural clients ranging from children and adults. Besides her clients, Maietta has given a voice to artists across the world. They have found a new platform for their self-expression. Round21 supports the BLM movement and frontline workers as well.

A kickstarter organized by Maietta churned up more than 200% of the anticipated goal. That in itself, speaks volumes about how receptive the world is to her vision.

Now that the pandemic has restricted real life engagements on all fronts, it has also made round21’s purpose even more palpable. “There is an innate desire for people to play together, the pandemic has made this challenging. The thought that they can find hope and a sense of self, through what we’re creating here, mini basketball hoops for players stuck at home for instance, adds so much value to round21,” Maietta adds. It has helped bring the much-needed element of normalcy to people’s lives.

Off the professional field, she loves spending time with her family where she and her 16 year old niece, a “strong motivator” run a podcast involving her entire family. Maietta revels in the fact that her business keeps the learner in her alive, “I am constantly inspired by what’s happening in the creative arts, world and sports!” she says exuding great optimism.

Read another interesting article on sports. Is it still a man’s world?