With a new campaign, Special Olympics wants to take back the word “special” and other language that they say has been turned against people with disabilities.

The international sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities is rolling out the effort dubbed “Yeah, I am Special” with a pair of New York City billboards and a video voiced by ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith.

The group is also touting appearances by high-profile supporters like Milwaukee Bucks player Damian Lillard and former NFL player Dale Moss wearing apparel that says “special.”

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This is all a precursor to a global digital campaign planned for next year, Special Olympics said, to address the stigma that’s associated with the word “special” and other similar language used around the world to demean people with disabilities.

“In sports, ‘special’ is often used to describe once-in-a-lifetime players, epic moments of teamwork and extraordinary acts of greatness that inspire others,” said Christy Weir, Special Olympics’ vice president of international media relations and communications. “Special Olympics acknowledges there is a long-held stigma that has been applied to the word special. Professional and collegiate athletes do not face this stigma when they are described as special. Our athletes deserve that same respect.”

The campaign developed with the advertising agency Tombras is aimed at launching a global conversation challenging the labels that society imposes on people with disabilities, Special Olympics said.

The effort will coincide with the 15th anniversary of the group’s “Spread the Word to End the Word” campaign, which asked people to pledge not to use the word “retard.”

Plans are in the works to promote the campaign through social media and other platforms as well as additional celebrity endorsements and partnerships with various brands, the nonprofit indicated.

“We have the opportunity to lead by example by reclaiming the word special,” Weir said. “We aren’t allowing others to define who we are and what our athletes can do — we are leading the conversation on how words matter.”

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