By Ken Reed
The holiday season is traditionally a popular time for giving to charitable causes and the less fortunate.
That holds true in SportsWorld.
In any given year, many athletes and sports organizations are criticized — usually fairly — for their greed and win-at-all-costs attitudes.
But there are also many athletes and sports organizations that do great things for people and worthy charitable causes. In fact, they probably outnumber the greedy and selfish athletes and sports organizations.
Giving to others doesn’t need to take a lot of time or money. Just consider the powerful impact that the “Iowa Wave” has had this year. During the wave, nearly 70,000 players, coaches and fans inside Kinnick Stadium at the University of Iowa turn to wave to the children sitting and watching in a lobby atop the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital between the first and second quarters of home games. It’s a powerful moment of people reaching out and connecting with fellow human beings who are struggling.
Another great instance of athletes lending a helping hand was started by the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt. Watt launched a fundraiser to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area. Watt said he hoped to raise $200,000. His campaign ended up raising $37 million to help rebuild homes, restore child care centers, provide food and meet the health needs of those impacted by Harvey. Along with Watt’s donation, the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady gave $100,000, and the Houston Rockets’ Chris Paul donated $50,000. In all, more than 200,000 people donated to the cause.
“I cannot thank everyone enough for their support and donations from across the country and around the world,” Watt said to those who helped him raise funds for Harvey relief. “You have truly shown what is possible when everyone bands together for one common cause.”
The list of athletes doing good in 2017 is a long one. Baseball’s Carlos Beltran donated $1 million to help the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Members of the Golden State Warriors pitched in to help those impacted by the wild fires that hit the West Coast in October. The Warriors front office, along with the front offices of the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers donated well over $1 million to the wild fire relief efforts.
There were a couple other cool stories that stood out on the “athletes doing good” front in 2017. The Philadelphia Eagles’ Chris Long donated his first six game checks for scholarships for students in Charlottesville, Virginia following the ugly hate march in that city. Cole Hamels and his wife, Heidi, donated a $10 million mansion and 100 acres of land to a charity that provides camps for children that are chronically ill or have special needs. The Philadelphia Eagles’ Carson Wentz announced he was building a sports complex for children in Haiti.
Then there’s Colin Kaepernick. Easily the most polarizing athlete of 2017, the unemployed quarterback, who drew widespread attention for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of social injustice, donated $600,000 of his Million Dollar Pledge to charitable causes in 2017. That followed his $300,000 donation to non-profit causes in 2016.
Athletes doing good need to be recognized more often than they are. But at the very least it’s good to recognize outstanding charitable efforts during the holiday season.
Job well done to those mentioned here, as well as to the many others in SportsWorld who are making a difference in their communities and countries around the world.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.