In recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, the Rams are highlighting the diverse AAPI experience through the voices of our employees.
The series concludes with Associate Athletic Trainer and Physical Therapist Jon Hernandez.
A proud Filipino American raised in New Jersey, a consistent part of Jon Hernandez's upbringing was big family gatherings with lots of food.
Hernadez believes sitting down and having a meal with someone is a great way to get to know them, and bring them into their family. In many ways, it translates to his current role as an associate athletic trainer and physical therapist for the Rams.
"In Filipino culture, anyone who came to our family gatherings left as part of our family," Hernandez said. "We always wanted to create a welcoming environment for anyone who came and broke bread with us, and I think that's a part of my culture that allows me to open my arms in the athletic training room. I use the same mindset when players come to us for care. We create an open and welcoming environment for players to feel comfortable when they're with us so they can let their hair down and be them. When they leave the training room, they're family, just like they would having dinner with us."
With the Rams since their return to Los Angeles in 2016, Hernandez helps the team with the acute management, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries. He said the best part of his job is getting the chance to work with great people.
"From the performance staff, players, coaches and support staff in our building, I'm truly blessed to be surrounded by some of the best human beings," he said. "I'm immersed in a positive, forward-thinking ecosystem that pushes me to be the best version of myself for them."
Hernandez had many great mentors growing up who helped shape him both personally and professionally, and those interactions still resonate with him to this day.
He said he told himself that as he continues to grow in his career and be in positions where he can help others, he wants to pay it forward in the same way those mentors were a resource for him.
"Whether it be providing knowledge in physical therapy, athletic training, working in professional sports or in personal development, I want to be able to give back because I know how impactful it was for me throughout my career," he said.
Just like in the athletic training profession, knowledge is also power when it comes to allyship with the AAPI community. A critical component to becoming better allies: Educating oneself about another person's background.
"I think we should not only be better allies for the AAPI community, but also for all minorities," Hernandez said. "One way is to be an active listener and taking the time to understand someone is from and what their core values. We interact with players, coaches and staff from all different backgrounds and upbringings. When we are trying to build rapport with them, one of the most important things is to get to know them as people first in order to understand their perspectives. This allows us to have empathy and understanding in certain situations that aren't as familiar to us, and I think that's how we can eventually grow as a society that's accepting of all races, ethnicities and backgrounds."
That strategy of learning is also one way Hernandez recommended celebrating AAPI Heritage Month – whether that be sharing a meal as Hernandez and his family did growing up, or another cultural activity.
"If you have friends, co-workers, neighbors, or colleagues that are of Asian-American or Pacific Islander descent, take some time to get to know them," he said. "Go try a new restaurant of an ethnicity that you haven't tried before and be open to trying something new. Watch a movie with an predominantly Asian cast or listen to music by an Asian performer. I think the more we can learn about each other by exposing ourselves to different cultures, tastes and entertainment, we can slowly appreciate the differences in our culture in hopes to embrace something we otherwise wouldn't. Understand to learn and not judge."