Nike selected former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as the face of its "Just Do It" campaign, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary.
Darren Rovell of ESPN reported the choice of Kaepernick, who started the movement to kneel during the United States national anthem to protest racial injustice in August 2016. Rovell said, “Nike had been paying Colin Kaepernick all along, waiting for the right moment. That moment is now, as he becomes the face of the company’s 30th anniversary of the ‘Just Do It’ campaign.” One of the first taglines in the campaign is: Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.
As Kaepernick becomes the public face of the campaign, it will be important to watch the reaction in society as Nike is a major partner of the NFL and the company holds sway at the club level. It’s too early to tell how this will impact his collusion case against the NFL, but it seems more certain than ever that his playing days are over.
Five-time Olympic medal winner, Simone Biles, made a statement in more ways than one at the U.S. Gymnastics Championship in Boston earlier this summer. She became the first woman in 24 years to be awarded the top score in every event of a national championship. She accomplished this while sending a powerful message through her decision to wear a teal leotard. Eight months in advance, Biles choose to wear teal, the symbolic color for survivors of sexual abuse, and designed her own leotard. She is among 250 athletes who have come forward to accuse former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse. "I stand with all of them and I think it’s kind of special to unite (people)" she told the Associated Press. Her leotard choice served as a meaningful tribute to survivors at the event, which was the first U.S. Championships held since Nassar's conviction. This demonstrates that athletes can speak out and speak up in more ways than simply their actions or words. Biles’ leotard sent a powerful message that we are stronger together and that we will stand up for what is right.
The third NBA Africa Game was held in Pretoria, South Africa this summer. Eighteen NBA players participated in the exhibition as part of Basketball Without Borders, the NBA’s outreach program that helps promote the sport around the globe. The game was played in support of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, embodying his belief that sports have the power to inspire and change the world. Players and participants spent the week involved in basketball camps, youth leadership programs, the second NBA Africa Innovation Summit, and various community service projects for organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Hoops for Hope.
This was deeply personal for Joel Embiid, the star center for the Philadelphia 76ers, because he was discovered at a Basketball without Borders camp in Africa in 2011. Embiid paid homage to South African icon Nelson Mandela, whose legacy, 100 years after his birth, was celebrated by the NBA.
'Madiba,' as the former president was known, was a strong advocate for the power of sport to change lives, and Embiid said that he felt it was his duty to give back in memory of Mandela, and to use his fame and wealth to help those who need it, either through the game itself, or through other charitable efforts. Embiid said of Mandela: "He did a lot of great things, which I appreciate a lot. Now me being in that position, I'm in a position where I'm able to give back. I have to give back because of the people that paved the way for us."
Embiid was a visible and enthusiastic presence throughout the trip, chatting and laughing with fellow players and the camp attendees, and was clearly having a great time, dunking on Charlotte Hornets center Bismack Biyombo, and joking around with the kids.
As for his own enjoyment of the week in Johannesburg, the 7-foot player recalled his own excitement at being allowed near NBA players when he was a 'camper' in 2011, and he's happy to give youngsters today that same fulfillment.
When asked if this week made him feel nostalgic for his own camp days, Embiid said: "Yeah, it's fun for me. I think as long as God allows me, as long as my schedule allows me, that's something I want to do every year, just come back and give back. When I was in that situation, I felt great being among NBA players. I wanted to learn from them. I wanted to touch them because I was so amazed by them.” Of course, Embiid realizes his unique story and situation and understands that there are more children like him. “I feel like we have a lot of talent, undiscovered talent, that can have a chance just like I did. They just need an opportunity.”
Eight-year-old Hailey Dawson is on a mission to become the first person to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums in the US. As she travels across the country, she is determined to raise awareness for Poland syndrome, a rare birth defect that caused her to be born without three fingers on her right hand and without a right pectoral muscle. Hailey wears a 3D-printed robotic hand customized for each game thanks to the engineering team at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her effort is also helping to raise money for UNLV to produce similar 3D hands for other patients. With her final pitch set for the Angels vs. Mariners game in Los Angeles on Sept. 16, Hailey leaves behind a nation of fans – professional athletes included – inspired by her journey.
This demonstrates that no matter how old or young, how large your stature, you can use sport as a vehicle for social change. Hailey realized how she could use sport to raise awareness and has created a movement of fans and players supporting her journey.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton became one of the most popular figures in Buffalo after his touchdown pass helped Buffalo make the playoffs last season. The fourth-down pass eliminated the Ravens and gave the Bills their first playoff appearance in 17 years.
Immediately following the game, the Andy and Jordan Foundation, which supports children in need, was flooded with donations from Buffalo fans. Dalton said that as of this week, his foundation has received 17,000 donations for more than $450,000 that can be traced to the Buffalo area. When the Bengals visited the Buffalo Bills for a preseason game a few weeks ago, Dalton donated to the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo
Bills coach Sean McDermott is touched by how fans have responded to Dalton, and also by how the Bengals quarterback is giving back to Buffalo. "What a strong moment," McDermott said. "It gives me chills just to think about it. So many times ... you get, 'Hey, this is this team and that team,' and you kind of get on your own individual islands and everyone's on their own island and team. "But what a great testament to paying it forward and what Andy and his wife have decided to do and give back to our community that gave to them."
San Francisco knows how to throw a party – first there was Super Bowl 50, which was the most giving Super Bowl ever. Then there was the Rugby World Cup Sevens, where over 100,000 fans walked through the gates of AT&T Park, making it the highest attended rugby event in the United States. The event set records of all sorts, and while the United States didn’t have the best results, it did inspire the next generation of fans. According to USA Rugby, “Aspiring players were able to tangibly see the spectacle of the sport as USA Rugby and Impact Beyond look to carry on that legacy. In tandem with Play Rugby USA< Rugby NorCal, USA Rugby Academy and Playworks Northern California, Impact Beyond engaged nearly 22,000 youth and raised almost $200,000 that will directly support greater Bay Area community programs and youth rugby development.”
Impact Beyond strives to accomplish 4 goals:
Through the wild success of this event, USA Rugby plans to replicate the legacy program in other US cities. This shouldn’t be surprising, as legacy foundations of major events are a growing trend around the world. It helps distinguish large-scale events and helps localize the community efforts to reach those at a grassroots level.
Football is back. Over the weekend, the NFL had its first preseason game of the year – the Hall of Fame game. With this game, came the 2018 inductee class for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Leading up to the event, it was chronicled that Brian Dawkins struggled with mental health issues. Struggle is an understatement – he not only had suicidal thoughts, but he planned his suicide so that his wife would receive the insurance money.
Many people understand that football provides so much structure to life. Every minute is planned from meetings, to rehab, to meals, strategy, etc. When players retire, they struggle to cope with the freedom that comes with retirement – many would believe that this is when Dawkins struggled with depression because he was unable to find his identity. These people would be wrong. During the early days of his playing career, during his rookie and sophomore season, Dawkins was in a dark place. He contemplated suicide and his wife was the only thing that helped him through it. She reached out to Emmitt Thomas, one of Dawkins’ coaches, and the two were able to help get Dawkins on the right track again.
Dawkins took time during his Hall of Fame speech to recount his battle with depression and mental health illness. He said, “So for those who are going through it right now, there’s hope. You do have hope. There is something on the other side of this. Don’t get caught up where you are. Don’t stay where you are. Keep moving. Keep pushing through.” This was one of the most powerful moments of the night because he acknowledged his battle with depression, and is living proof that it can be beaten. Mental health should be seen as a continuum – it is not a yes or no answer. Rather, we all have issues and some days are better than others. By bringing attention to this issue, Dawkins assuredly saved lives through his speech. He reached people through his speech who are suffering, and he gave them hope. This is what the power of sports can do for strangers – it can unite, heal and help overcome any issue that life throws our direction.
In late July, Special Olympics celebrated its 50th anniversary with events and concerts throughout the city of Chicago. 50 years after its birth, more than five million athletes from 172 countries are a part of the Special Olympics family. In honor of the Games’ 50th anniversary, a special unified program was held, where athletes with and without intellectual disabilities were able to participate in events together.
The Special Olympics Unified Cup took place from July 17-20. Other events included a Global Day of Inclusion, benefit concert and a torch run that raised over $4.5 million for Special Olympics. Runners came from all over Chicago, the state and the world. Participants ran to a new monument, the Eternal Flame of Hope, which symbolizes inclusion. The entire event welcomed thousands of athletes and supporters to Chicago, all for one amazing cause and an incredible theme: inclusion.
On July 19, 2018, in advance of the ESPYS, more than two dozen athletes and leaders in sport and youth development spoke at the Laureus Summit. It aimed to shine a light on sports positive impact on youth and communities across the globe. To make matters even more celebratory, it fell on the 100th birthday of Laureus’ founding patron, Nelson Mandela. With speeches from Chris Paul, to Edwin Moses, to Laureus USA CEO Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, the event brought the star power. Mosley said, “From community playing fields to professional stadiums, sport is a global language that has the power to unite us all. It is especially impactful in the lives of youth, who can learn life-long values and lessons through their participation.” Paul added on by saying, “I’ve learned through sport and action that it’s one of the only things where you don’t see race, you don’t see gender, everyone just comes together.”
According to the organization itself, Laureus USA also announced the results of its annual State of Sport for Good Report, which revealed that sport can play a significant role in reducing discrimination among children and youth in the United States. The report, which combined the results of 140 sport for development organizations collectively serving more than 850,000 youth, found that these programs are effectively improving their communities and helping to reduce discrimination among the youth that they serve.
In addition, Laureus USA announced the launch of Sport for Good LA for 2019. Sport for Good LA, which provides grants to non-profit organizations that use sport to improve the lives of youth, will mark the fifth Sport for Good City as part of the #20×20 campaign, with a goal of bringing Sport for Good Cities program to 20 cities by the year 2020.
A 3-time NBA Champion, 3-time NBA Finals MVP, and 4-time NBA MVP, LeBron James is no slacker. In fact, he’s been in the spotlight for over fifteen years as “the next big thing” and then an NBA superstar. The comparisons to Michael Jordan have been in full swing for over a decade, yet James has continued to impress both with his ability on and off the court. This past week however, he made the largest impact yet, with the opening of the I Promise School. It opened the first week of August in Akron, Ohio, as a joint effort between the LeBron James Family Foundation and Akron Public Schools. Its objective is to educate at-risk youth in Akron and identify those who have fallen behind in school and help accelerate their learning.
The school will have a longer school day and school year, and those students that complete the school’s program will get tuition provided by James at the University of Akron, beginning in 2021. Services are available for students, to help them cope with stress as it relates to parents who are struggling to make ends meet. In addition, there are activities to prevent the kids from having too much idle time and potentially getting into trouble.
The school also provides services to families, including job placement assistance for parents and an on-site food bank that will allow parents to pick out foods they can prepare at home. Finally, James credits his bicycle as a huge factor in his childhood that gave him an escape from dangerous parts of his neighborhood and the freedom to explore – every student will receive a bicycle when they arrive.
James recently went on CNN and explained that sports is a unifier… it’s what allowed all athletes to get to their place in life. He believes that his peers owe it to future generations to pay it forward and provide resources to those at-risk. James has always been a philanthropist, especially to his hometown of Akron. It will be interesting to see how the school operates, as potentially 50-75% of it will be publicly funded, as it is a part of the public-school system. Interestingly enough, most schools that are started by celebrities are charter schools or private ones. One thing is for sure – James will always have the students’ best interests at heart.